Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Ukulele Hymns for Private Worship
As you are no doubt aware--the flow of time being what it is--my annual ukulele summer service series is over. I have some thoughts about what I have learned. However, I am still digesting. Much of it has less to do with the uke in particular and instead concerns worship in general. I have been reminded of things that I once knew about worship and discovered a few more. I will post on this soon, so feel free to read the "Ukulele" posts to get up to speed if you aren't already.
What I wanted to bring up now, though, is perhaps the most interesting byproduct of using the uke as the summer instrument of choice. I now tend to use it myself, for private prayer and worship. In fact, if there is any "spiritual discipline" that I can claim, it would be the daily singing and playing of Abide With Me and My Life Flows on.
I came to this by accident. Over the summer I played every day. I would warm up on popular tunes from the catalogues of Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Decemberists, and Mumford & Sons. After that, I would practice the hymns for Sunday. However, as the summer wore on--and it did wear--I found myself playing a few hymns over and over as they suited the mood and the instrument. After a while they became part of my daily routine. Now, with the pressures of work and kids, sometimes they are the only pieces I have time for.
Still, I manage to get the uke out to play and sing those two songs. They have provided a spiritual focus to at least a small part of my busy day. They have provided solace during a season which--for a variety of reasons--I will not miss.
If you are thinking about the possibility of increasing the importance of music in your own spiritual practice you might want to give thought to what I have accidentally done. Other hymns might work better for you. Perhaps other instruments as well, though the uke gives everything it encounters a sweet simplicity that is hard to beat. It is (as I have mentioned before) relatively easy to play moderately well, so when there is no one to impress, it might be just the thing.
I would, however, recommend that if you do use Abide with Me, that you find a traditional version that you like. The UU hymnal (Singing the Living Tradition) for example, excludes the verse with the line "I need thy presence every passing hour". I need to hear and utter that from time to time. It is a basic tenet of my own faith. I do need God. It is good to say that every once in a while.
A recent Facebook conversation about music in our personal spiritual journeys pointed out some of the many ways in which we use music to touch the Divine. In particular, the question was about how we do this outside of corporate worship. Here's hoping that you have a way to personally integrate music, too.