Saturday, October 10, 2015

Genuine Church Music (1833)

Dawn Potter

A pernicious error one would make, to claim
That man’s free love of song may be the same
As Piety; and yet its usefulness in whetting
Our brightest blades of Faith, of vetting
Our Devotional affections—in every age,
This is the happy trust of those who do engage
To hold communion with the King of mercies.
So let us call our tuneful joinèd verses
Conversation, consoling and remarkable:
Let us praise our Lord in syllables
Divine. Do not forget the Master took
Much pleasant care to fill the pages of His Book
With somber odes uniting voice and heart.
He expects His singers to illuminate their part.

[from Chestnut Ridge, a verse-history of southwestern Pennsylvania]


In the course of my research for this collection, I spent considerable time reading Mennonite hymns. Singing is an important element of Mennonite services: the act of singing is seen as part of the human conversation with God. . . . and conversation is the actual word early hymn-book editors chose to describe the relationship.

The poem's title borrows from the name of the Mennonite shape-note anthology, Harmonia Sacra: A Compilation of Genuine Church Music, first published in 1832.

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