A Morning Weather Hymn

It is peculiarly human to sing, and to sing together. It is a heartening exercise when done communally on a theme you believe in, as the protest marchers for civil rights understood in the ’60s with “We Shall Overcome.” Such singing was not the same as Doo-wop entertainment or pop songs with the Supremes orchestrated by the Motown machine. Street singing had a different cachet too than Fanny Crosby’s old-time revival hymns. If you yourself enter a non-professional group singing a song that is solid and well-known, it invigorates you.

But times have changed. Outside the church, people seldom sing together. The silent sing-along with MP3 players I see happening on the subway consists of bobbing heads and tensed facial muscles mimicking the jolting beat in their ears. And usually some soloist consummates the moment before the beginning of a big competitive sports event using the national anthem, with few in the stands joining in. “Happy Birthday” is about the most many of us ever voice with others.

It is probably too much to hope that families will ever sing together at home. But a few families still do. If you are a guest at such a family meal, you experience an unexpected blessing, as if angels are indeed mysteriously present. That’s what our family experienced in 1980 visiting our Lutheran pastor friend, Gerhard Goebel, in Dresden while East Germany was still under communist control: the Goebels ended the simple meal by singing a German chorale in four-part harmony.

Saint Benedict’s “Rule” (c. A.D. 528) had monks chanting psalms together at sunrise every morning (Lauds), beginning with Psalms 67 and 51. Less rigorous (Anglican) communions later on would have a “morning song” and an “evensong” to begin and end the day singing praise to God.

The Psalms also celebrate God’s sunshine (Psalm 19:4b-6) and how the animals thrive in all kinds of God’s weather (Psalm 104:10-30). The rhythm of seedtime and harvest and changing seasons, including snow and frost, is a covenantal promise by the Lord of the universe (Genesis 8:20-22; Psalm 148:7-10). So why not celebrate such a common gracious reality?

I wonder whether there might not be parachurch occasions—early morning Bible study groups, vacation Bible school, maybe a church school class, a prayer breakfast, or even a committee meeting—where a rousing song about the weather outside would be a unifying ice-breaker, bringing smiles to faces and relating sun and rain to God who graciously gives it.

God controls the weather. Even secular insurance companies recognize and bank on that fact. After a particularly disastrous storm, the insurance company will not pay damages. Small print in the policy exempts their liability from “acts of God.”

Perhaps Reformed Worship readers might want to try out “A Morning Weather Hymn” for size. The weather God sends is always with us. The melody of this new song is upbeat. Its range is about an octave, very singable. It should be sung at a sprightly tempo. If you use the excellent harmony, there is the opening dissonance of a second (D against E), which tells you we are not living in the nineteenth century, but thanking God today, A.D. 2007, rain or shine. The musical accompaniment has a solid moving bass line against just enough syncopation in the melody to highlight a good regularity amid surprise in the developing tune—much like the weather. And the song ends with a full harmonic A major chord, snug, the way a good poem or hymn verse should conclude.

If your group tries “A Morning Weather Hymn” five times and is still not edified after you know it—a smile does a lot to a human face—drop me a line. I’ll take you out for coffee at the nearest coffee shop and we’ll sing it together. After all, all of life is meant to be a song for God.

Calvin Seerveld (cgs80@primus.ca) is professor of aesthetics emeritus at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. Woodcut by Peter Smith, 2006.


Reformed Worship 84 © June 2007, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.