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Old Thumper Hymns Still Get the Blood Flowing

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on February 24, 1990

by Roz Young

            At the beginning of Lent every year I think of the first year we had our new hymnals. The worship committee picked out a new hymn for us to sing every Sunday until Easter. The first time we tried it, the congregation gave up halfway through the first stanza and the choir marched down the aisle mute. Only the organist carried on to the end.
            We never sang that hymn to that tune again.
            Lately, a rash of churches have new hymnals. Besides us Episcopalians, the Presbyterians and the United Methodists have adopted new hymnals.
            Nobody likes new hymnals because with each new edition old familiar hymns disappear and new ones written by mere youths are added. The Fairmont Presbyterians gave away their old hymnals when they bought the new ones. But the people missed the old ones, so they bought the set of old ones back. There isn't room in the racks on the pews for two hymnals. They have to put an extra rack under the pews. I wouldn't be surprised to hear a squabble breaks out over whether the old ones get the place of honor on the back of the pews and the new ones go under the pews or the other way around.
            The United Methodists reversed the modern trend in their new hymnals; the music committee included a handful of the old thumpers that had disappeared from their old hymnals long ago. When I say "thumpers," I mean those old foot-tapping rousers that the ancients sang in revival meetings but that most churches have stopped singing these 50 years and some, of course, never did at all.
            One relic in the new hymnal is Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. I can still hear it in memory. On the refrain, the women sang, "Leaning, leaning," while the men sang, "Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus." Then, everybody sang, "Safe and secure from all alarms." Then came another "Leaning leaning, (leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus), leaning on the everlasting arms."
            The new United Methodist hymnal has reprised In the Garden. Remember that refrain? "And he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known."
            The Old Rugged Cross is there, too, Rescue the Perishing and Happy Day. "Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away."
            They included also an oldie that is guaranteed to stir up a sluggish liver. I hope one sunny day I'll be driving past a Methodist church when the air conditioning is off and the windows are open, and floating out on the air will be happy Methodist voices singing, "Shall we gather at the river, where bright angel feet have trod with its crystal tide forever flowing by the throne of God? YES, we'll gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river; gather with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God."
            Sing that one once a day and you'll never have clogged arteries.