I wasn’t preaching this week – and like many preachers there was something like a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to wrestle with trying to explain the Trinity! However, one of the hymns we sang was the wonderful St Patrick’s Breastplate in the wonderful translation by Mrs C F Alexander. After the service someone commented to me how long it was, despite the fact that the version we sang from our hymn book has only five verses. It brought to mind the Trinity Sunday sermon I preached three years ago on the same hymn. I share it with you again today.
The press sometimes seems to take great delight in quoting one survey or another claiming to show that religious belief is in decline. Actually not true although patterns of churchgoing have changed – and in this diocese at least we have begun to see some growth.
But there is one area that we have seen real decline – and that is in the length of hymns that churchgoers are apparently willing to sing. And even clergy. One well-known broadcasting cleric tweeted not long ago that no hymn should be more than four verses unless it’s for a procession. And you can measure this decline in the acceptable length of hymns by looking back at our hymn books.
Take a hymn we’re singing today – the great Trinitarian hymn known as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate – which is one of my favourite hymns. Continue reading