Stories of Song & Scripture #4: Revd Canon Rachel

Stories of Song & Scripture is our blog series through which members of the Huddersfield Parish Church family share their favourite hymns, songs of worship and passages from scripture, giving an insight into what it means to them and why.

Today’s blog comes from our own Revd Canon Rachel Firth.

As those of you who have been reading my other blogs – introducing myself and telling my faith story – have probably realised, music is a hugely important part of my life and faith. My father is a chorister, my brother was a chorister and as I child I wasn’t allowed to be a chorister – no girls allowed back then. I was allowed to be in the parish panto though – 14 years from 3 to 17!

God being God always finds a way of course – and it was through my involvement in church music – firstly in London at Holy Trinity Eltham, and then at St Mary’s in Mirfield, that God called me into my vocation to the priesthood.

I think we experience the divine in music – especially in music we create together. For me when a choir sings or an orchestra plays it is a deep sign of who we are and who God is. When we make music together, we truly experience the whole being greater than the sum of its parts – we experience transcendence. This speaks to me of the nature of God in Trinity and of the potential for abundant life we have through God’s grace. As Christians we believe that we are able to transcend our weakness, our brokenness and our sinfulness because of what Christ did for us on the cross – which for me makes singing with others sacramental – an outward, visible, audible sign of the grace that lies within us through Christ Jesus.

All this said – I’m supposed to be telling you about a favourite hymn or song. Frankly I could write you a whole series of these blogs. I know it sounds grim but it’s like the ‘what music would you have at your funeral’ conversation. There’s so much music – and it’s so hard to choose (but yes I do already have a list at 46 – it’s something Vicars do!)

So I’m going to give you something ancient today and I think something modern in my next blog – because I love both – and because I’m not an either/or kind of vicar – I’m a both/and kind of vicar.

So first the ancient – words from 1662 – and never bettered. The ultimate hymn for the end of Palm Sunday as we turn from the joyful entry into Jerusalem to the Via Dolorosa.

My song is love unknown,
my Saviour’s love to me,
love to the loveless shown,
that they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
my Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from his blest throne,
salvation to bestow;
but men made strange, and none
the longed-for Christ would know.
But oh, my Friend, my Friend indeed,
who at my need his life did spend!

Sometimes they strew his way,
and his sweet praises sing;
resounding all the day
hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
and for his death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
he gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
themselves displease and ‘gainst him rise.

They rise, and needs will have
my dear Lord sent away;
a murderer they save,
the Prince of Life they slay.
Yet willing he to suff’ring goes,
that he his foes from thence might free.

Here might I stay and sing,
no story so divine;
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like thine.
This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

On my good days – when I realise my own smallness on the planet and in eternity and know that that’s perfectly OK – I ask nothing more than to stay and sing this greatest story ever told.

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