For our rest home services we always sing a few of the old favourite hymns like “The Lord’s my Shepherd”, “Amazing Grace”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, Blessed Assurance”, or “Praise my soul the king of heaven”. The people respond to these hymns. Some of the people we meet in rest homes have difficulty communicating, or seem to be confused, sometimes remembering little of their former lives. And yet, these hymns stir something within them. Some sing with enthusiasm, others struggle to keep up with the words, some lighten up as they hear the familiar tunes, others drift peacefully in and out of sleep. But in any case it seems that the hymns are the highlight for many. The hymns have stayed with them throughout the years and continue with them even when little else does. That’s what hymns can do.
I sometimes wonder how much longer people will respond to these hymns at rest home services, not because hymns no longer have that power, but because as generations change there will be more people who have never sung any of the hymns and do not know them. What music will then reach them? Will it be the music of popular musicians, such as the Beatles, Michael Jackson or the Backstreet Boys…? And can they sing them? Today, many people are unable to sing themselves, but can only listen to music or at best hum along to recorded music. Will the songs people know be so varied that little can be found that will appeal to all? I think rest home ministry will become more difficult. Because hymns are known, sung and loved by so many, they are such a great way to bring people together.
I do hope that for many years to come we can still sing hymns together and that even in old age we find people to join us in song. Music ministry continues to be important, because music speaks to us in so many ways.