A week on from Easter and the hymns are still singing in the ears. Charles Wesley played as a full volume rock anthem? It works at Easter.
If the wings of the Church of England divide the year, Easter is when the Evangelicals hold the field. Cast out those awful, mawkish things on the hymn-sheet at Christmastide: at Easter we can belt out the best of them, in hymns of joy.
The clergy of the Church of England follow a strict calendar, even if the congregation do not, but we occasionally notice when the style of the hymns change a little from the general middle-of-the-book ones chosen at the whim of the choirmaster. The major seasons though, Easter and Christmas, have their own set of hymns and songs.
At Christmas, the Anglo-Catholics have sewn the season up, filling it with doubtful, theologically unsound and just plain blasphemous songs. The Victorians must be to blame – trying to find some of the romantic beauty of the Middle Ages they dragged from ancient books a series of carols designed to awe unreformed congregations into superstitious sentimentality .and then wrote their own int he same vein. There must be a way to save Christmas from the mediaevalists, but for now it may mean going Baptist over the season.
Easter though – Easter is unambiguous. The hymns are ful of verve and praise. There is always Charles Wesley, and more recent hymn-writers, not just Graham Kendrick, and that Dutch ‘Easter carol’ that fits in a Reformed theological argument with a leaping tune. They give us things to belt out at the top of our voices with broad smiles (my reservation being that if my faulty voice were at full volume it would ruin it for those around me, so I am quieter).
What I can tell is that I stood in a cathedral full of diverse characters who one might assume were from all over the field of theological preference, and they were singing like the wildest evangelicals, with faces alight like they have never been all year. There were among us some Christians from a far land where the faith is persecuted: when I meet these whose faith is fresh and pure, tempered by the fire, I usually worry at how they will react to the degraded, timid expression of the Western church, but at Easter, with all the vigour of the church unleashed as when it was newborn, I had no cause for concern.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed – Hallelujah!
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