Part 2 of amazing tales of Methodist hymns and hymn-writing
❖ “AMAZING GRACE” – Americans’ favourite hymn according to the Gallup Poll – was written by the former captain of a slave ship. That “wretch,” John Newton, eventually became an Anglican minister and worked to abolish the slave trade.
❖ Isaac Watts, who wrote such well-known hymns as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy to the World”, was an accomplished writer in many areas. He wrote a textbook on logic that was used at Oxford. His children’s hymnal may be the most popular children’s classic ever published. Alice in Wonderland parodied some of its hymns (for example, “Tis the Voice of the lobster, I heard him declare.”)
❖ Isaac Watts’ collection of psalms and hymns was still selling as many as 60,000 copies per year over 100 years after it was published. His Psalms of David went through 31 editions in its first 50 years, including a 1729 reprinting issued by Benjamin Franklin.
❖ William Cowper wrote 68 hymns; John Newton wrote 280; Philip Doddridge wrote around 400; and Isaac Watts wrote 697. But Charles Wesley wrote 8,989.
❖ William Cowper, who wrote a classic hymn on God’s providence – “God Moves in a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform” – tried a number of times to commit suicide. He suffered from mental illness.
❖ In 18th Century England, many hymns contained rhyming words that no longer rhyme today. For example, join could rhyme with divine or thine; and convert could rhyme with art.
❖ Eighteenth-century hymn books were usually only collections of texts – they did not include musical notes. The first American hymnal to join tunes with texts was not published until 1831.
❖ The usual method of singing in church was by “lining out” – having a leader say one line, and the congregation repeat it. (This was done because hymn books were expensive, and many worshipers could not read.) People did not sing one line immediately after another, as they do now.
■ EDITOR’S NOTE:
“The remarkable hymn-writing skills of Charles and John Wesley” appeared on Page 17 of the September 2005 issue of Methodist Message.
UK Methodists welcome Covenant report
TORQUAY (England) — The annual Methodist Conference has received the first report from the Joint Implementation Commission (JIC) on the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.
The Covenant was signed in November 2003 between the Methodist Church in Britain and the Church of England, and the JIC report is the first opportunity the churches have had to review progress in the implementation of the Covenant since then.
The JIC report – entitled “In the Spirit of the Covenant” – contains examples of the ways in which, in every part of both churches, there is lively and positive working together.
The Rev David Deeks, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, said:
“The aim of this report is both to celebrate what the Covenant has already achieved, and to stimulate discussion, prayer and action on what more our churches and peoples can do together.
“We will continue to explore what the Covenant means, and to find ways that we can work together with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Church of England.”
The JIC will make a further report to both the Methodist Conference and the General Synod of the Church of
England in 2008. — Methodist Church House, London.
Sixty-one United Methodists in US Congress
NASHVILLE — The number of United Methodists serving in the current 109th Congress remains at 61, unchanged from the 108th Congress.
The United Methodist Church also remained in third place among all religious groups represented in the Senate and House of Representatives.
The lawmakers will be working with an administration in which the President, Mr George W. Bush, and Vice-President, Mr Dick Cheney, are United Methodist.
There are 13 United Methodists in the Senate and 48 in the House. Republicans outnumber Democrats 38 to 23. — United Methodist News Service.