It's a Sunday evening in the early 1960s and we're sitting in the FreeMethodist Church on the corner of Pacific and Lombard in Everett. The wooden pews are long enough to comfortably seat a family of seven and a couple of friends; their dark stain covers up the mars that have appeared over the years. On Sunday mornings we're always in the second row in the middle but this is an evening service and all seats are up for grabs. (We are Free Methodists, after all!)
Tonight's service we're having a Singspiration. In a few moments the song leader will ask us to call out the hymn numbers we'd like to sing, and as you look through the congregation you see people flipping through the hymnal to find their favorite songs, two or three fingers acting as bookmarks for the songs they plan to request.
The song leader says, "OK now, who has a song?" and from someone quickly calls out a hymn by its number rather than its title. In the evening the songs are from the blue hymnal, but occasionally someone will have his or her heart set on a song from the red hymnal, the one we use on Sunday mornings. This is allowed, although it is not common.
The pianist scurries to find the song, as does the song leader. Oh, no, four sharps! Well, we'll see what we can do.
And the music begins. One after another we sing the favorite, familiar songs that have helped shape our faith. We all sing, men, women, children, even teens. We share the truths that have stood through the millennia -- songs of God's faithfulness, man's brokenness and need, Christ's love and redemption. We sing about the world needing Jesus and about our conviction to serve Him all our days.
Borther Rupert, our pastor, will inevitably call out hymn number 99, "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners." He loves that song and it has become a kind of theme song for our church family. Sing along!
Someone will likely request Victory in Jesus.
Of course, no singpiration would be complete without this one (of course it never sounded like this when we sang it!):
And when the evening comes to a close and we are all sung-out, we return our hymnals to the racks and go home, fortified for another week.