Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Favorite hymns

Sally Thomas at First Things notes "a call for favorite hymns" at Semicolon:
.... I thought a Top 100 Hymns Poll would be a great summer project. I might learn something and be encouraged in my own worship. You might learn some new hymns or be reminded of some oldies. We all might enjoy visiting and re-visiting the hymns of the faith together. ....

Make a list of your top ten hymns of all time.
Hymn (according to Webster): a song of praise to God,a metrical composition adapted for singing in a religious service.
For the purposes of this poll, I’m limiting the choices to Christian hymns, but the form of the song doesn’t matter. In other words, the songs on your list should be suitable for congregational singing and should be Christian. Handel’s Messiah is Christian but probably not suitable for congregational hymn singing. Anything you sing in worship service, even what are normally called choruses or gospel songs or spirituals or CCM, is fine. (Oh, English, please, or at least translated into English. Sorry, but it’s all I really speak.) .... [more rules]
Thomas described how she approached making her choices and then listed them:
My criteria for hymnodic goodness are singability (as satisfying to sing while washing the dishes or putting the children to bed as with organ, brass, and eight-part choir), poetic language (to update or inclusivize it is to un-write it), and catechetical soundness. Hymnody ought, I think, to suggest to the faithful some uniquely compelling reason or other for being in church on Sunday morning and not someplace else. Some weeks back, when I found myself singing a hymn in which the voice of Jesus is made to ask, "Do you love the 'you' inside," I think I might have shut the hymnal, sat down, and waited for help to arrive, except that I sing in the choir, and there are six of us, and we were the only people singing. ....
  1. Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies
  2. The King of Love My Shepherd Is
  3. Glory Be to Jesus
  4. My Song Is Love Unknown
  5. Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending
  6. Be Thou My Vision
  7. I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
  8. Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
  9. Ye Holy Angels Bright
  10. Of the Father's Heart Begotten
I like her criteria [and her hymns]. Here is my list, in no particular order. I fear that I am more inclined to choose because of the words than because of the music — so singability may not always reach the standard.
  1. How Firm a Foundation
  2. God Moves in a Mysterious Way
  3. Be Thou My Vision
  4. What Wondrous Love is This?
  5. God is Love, His Mercy Brightens
  6. The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll Not Want
  7. Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
  8. He Who Would Valiant Be
  9. Of the Father's Love Begotten
  10. Sometimes a Light Surprises
Today, Thomas notes that has already done a survey. Their top one hundred includes only three of my top ten.

Top 100 Hymns Survey at Semicolon, First Things - Blog: First Thoughts - Top 100 Hymns Survey


  1. That's a great list of ten. I don't think any of those are on my top ten, but some would surely be in my top twenty-five or so.

  2. Thanks! I visited your site, enjoyed it, and will be back - great hymn site.


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