Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hymn-swaying: Is it just a Southern thing?

I make it a point to go to noon services on Tuesday at the Church Center, because that's the one day we have music. To me, it just ain't a worship service without some serious sangin', if you know what I mean. Mostly the hymns are standard Episcopal/Anglican/Methodist tunes, familiar and fairly singable. Once in a while the music guy will pull out a green songbook, chock full of unsingable numbers (and that makes us all sad . . . ).

But today! Well, we got to sing out of the African-American hymnal Lift Every Voice And Sing. And the place was rockin to the oldies. Having been raised Southern Baptist, I really didn't need to look at the book for the words of the songs selected for the service (is that too many sssssssss's?). Knew 'em by heart, and they were purely a pleasure to sing.

The last song of the service was "Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is Calling)." When we got to the third verse, friend Linda - raised in Chattanooga and Atlanta, as I was - leaned over and said, "Notice it's only the Southerners who are swaying to this one?" I looked around, and low-and-behold, she was right. Those of us from the South (and there are a few of us up here in New York) were belting and swaying, belting and swaying - heads thrown back with eyes closed, letting it fly to the heavens.

Now. Whether you believe the words or not, go grab that old hymnal and sing a few altar-call songs. It will clear your head and lighten your soul. And those of you not lucky enough to be born and bred in the South, remember to sway. After all, it just comes nat'rul to us.

" . . . earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling. Calling, O Sinner! come home . . . "

3 comments:

tamarika said...

Beautiful, MaryB. This post hit home "even though I'm not Southern," and a you-know-what...

Thank you.

MaryB said...

Thanks, tamarika - I do a lot of things outside of my own culture that make me feel good. I figure it's all up for grabs! Whatever feeds the soul . . .

Liz said...

I'm a swayer too. I can't understand these people who can keep still when there's rhythm going.