Our United Methodist Women (UMW) will continue this exciting year of programming with yet another sacred space we all know and love. At the November UMW Luncheon: Sacred Hymns, Robert Stovall, FUMCFW Director of Music & Worship Arts, will uncover our rich history of Methodist hymns.
Take a religious poem, set it to music, sing it during worship, and you’ve got yourself a hymn. Sunday after Sunday, we turn the pages to find the next selection. As simple as that sounds, there is much more to it. Hymns are a sacred part of the Methodist tradition, and their words and tunes stay with us long after we close our hymnals. We all hold them in our hearts, sing them in our heads, and carry them everywhere we go.
For JonAnna Reidinger, Vice President of UMW Programs, hymns are important to us as we grow up. “They bring out memories — good and bad, sad and glad — like what was played at our weddings,” she says. UMW President Lynn Cockrell agrees that hymns bond us in many ways, particularly with our families, and fill us with all kinds of different emotions and connections to the past.
Robert, who was raised as a small child in the Baptist Church, says that he will never forget attending a revival in the fourth or fifth grade. “I’ll Fly Away!” was the hymn that he remembers from that day. Nowadays, “This Is My Song” is Robert’s pick as his favorite hymn of all. “I love the Finlandia melody but, most of all, I think the text is extremely moving in that it speaks to God and Country,” Robert describes. “It expresses the request of God hearing my song, a song of peace for all lands as well as the final verse of prayer and that of Christ being lifted up for all to serve him.”
The history of our hymns traces all the way back to the 1700s when the Wesley brothers started the Methodist movement. Charles Wesley himself is responsible for either writing or submitting text to a great many hymns that reflect the theology of the Wesleyan movement (8,989 hymns, to be exact). “Methodist is a singing denomination,” Robert adds. “We believe in the great hymns and use them to reinforce our beliefs.”
Robert and Peggy Graff, Organist and Associate Director of Music & Worship Arts, recently presented a two-part series on the “History of the Methodist Hymnal,” featuring famous hymn writers such as John Wesley and Fanny Crosby. After exploring the great hymns of our faith together, Robert says that the historical aspect is what stood out the most. “The biggest takeaway seemed to be that we are a very traditional denomination,” Robert recalls. “The classes we taught were amazed at how long we have been singing these great hymns, as well as where the hymns came from and who wrote them.”
According to Robert, hymns offer the singer and listener an opportunity to interpret them as they wish; some put it in a personal thought while others use them to enforce their beliefs toward others. That’s why our FUMCFW Music Ministries strive to tie each and every hymn in our services to the sermon’s message. “Thus, a theme may be developed within the service so that all may have a better understanding of what is being presented,” Robert explains. “Then, that message can be sent to our community members in a more complete way. It’s a reinforcement of what the spoken word says.”
All women are invited to Luncheons & Programs sponsored by United Methodist Women. Join us on Tuesday, November 1, at 11:30 am in Wesley Hall as we open our eyes (and ears) to sacred hymns. “Robert has such an enthusiasm and great energy,” Lynn exclaims. “This will be a wonderful program!”
Please RSVP and make your child care reservations by noon on Friday, October 28. We look forward to seeing you at our November UMW Luncheon!
RSVP: Online | 469-844-8690
Child Care: Paula Wagstaff | email@example.com