Let’s Bring Back the Old Hymns

Let’s Bring Back the Old Hymns

by Lewis Grizzard—Florence Morning News—June 16, 1986

I am by no means an expert on religion, but I firmly believe that you shouldn’t  mess with God’s music.  Do so, and He might get angry and do something terrible to us…such as bringing back the sack dress.

This notion comes to me after reading—in horror—of how the Methodist Church has decided to throw “Onward Christian Soldiers” out of its official hymnal because of the alleged militaristic overtones of that marvelous old hymn.

I will have these heretics know that “Onward Christian Soldiers” is the first hymn I ever memorized.  Maxine Estes, my Sunday School teacher at the Moreland Methodist Church (Moreland, Georgia) taught us that song.  In addition to that, Mike Murphy and Bobby Entrekin, and I were—if you will pardon my lack of humility—magnificent in our rendition.

We were camping out in Mike’s front yard.  Somewhere around the hour of 2 a.m., we decided to break into a quick and loud chorus.  “Onward, Christian Soldiers, marching as to war…”

We were so caught up in the fervor that song brings (when sung at the top of your lungs) that we hardly noticed when Mike’s Dad came out of the house in his undershorts (remember 2 a.m.).  He suggested that—if we did not cease, he would return with his own terrible swift sword…his belt.

One of the primary reasons people have strayed from church, I think, is because modern churches don’t sing old hymns anymore.

I went to a big city church recently; and, while they were taking up the collection, I got down under my seat and gazed through the church hymnal.  I’d never heard of 90% of the hymns.  If churches want to get members of their backsliding flocks to return to their pews, they might consider bringing back the old Methodist brown “Cokesbury Hymnal”, hallowed be its name.

My favorite selections from the “Cokesbury”, in no special order, were: “Precious Memories” – I want Willie Nelson to sing it at my funeral. .

“Rock of Ages” – The rafters shook when we sang it back home.

“Amazing Grace” – The blind girl could sing it so well.

“Shall We Gather at the River” – I get glory bumps just thinking about that old song.

“When the Role is Called Up Yonder” – My boyhood friend and idol, Weyman Wannamaker, Jr., a great American, used to follow that with “I hope the  butter makes it too.”

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” – My grandfather’s favorite.

“Dwelling in Beulah Land” – No. 95 in your hymnals:  Let’s sing the first and  last verses.

“Church in the Wildwood” – A Vacation Bible School all-time favorite.

There are many more, but let us end this by praying fervently that the Methodist Church, so dear to my childhood, awakens to its current wayward path and strays no more from its traditions.

Or, put even better:  “Hallelujah, thine the glory, revive us again!