Hymns for All Occasions Songs of Praise


Hymns for All Occasions

Pam Rhodes selects favourite hymns that mark the milestones in life - baptisms, weddings and funerals, as well as national events and celebrations.


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These photos bring back such lovely memories, but I bet I'm not alone

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in thinking that my hymn book also reminds me of many special moments.

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You try opening yours and I reckon you'll find that whatever

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the milestone in life, there's a hymn for every occasion.

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This week, hymnologist and author Gordon Giles, his parishioners

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at St Mary Magdalene in Enfield

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and congregations from across the nation with

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a selection of traditional hymns we can turn to whatever the occasion.

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Every single hymn in this book was written for an occasion.

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A special event or something momentous in the writer's life

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that made them want to reach out to God in prayer and praise.

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Well, today is Father's Day,

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so it's a lovely occasion to draw a parallel between the love

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we feel for our fathers here on earth

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and the wonderful love of our father in heaven.

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It's a time of great rejoicing

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when a baby is brought to church for baptism

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so that their family can join with the family of the church

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to dedicate that child's life to God's care and service.

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Gordon Giles is vicar of St Mary Magdalene in Enfield

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and the author of several books on hymnody.

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Baptism is about committing our lives to God for

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the length of our lifelong journey, really.

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So it begins with the presence of the Lord early in life.

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Be Still For The Presence Of The Lord is a very good hymn

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to have at a baptism.

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This idea of standing on holy ground

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when the Holy Spirit descends on us even now.

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We have a treasure store of hymns in our lives and we plunder them and

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we take out the shiny bits and look at them and sing them and enjoy them.

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And so this really does help us lift ourselves up.

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We lift our voices to the Lord in praise

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and that's what we're called to do in worship.

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Worship is the offering of worth.

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Weorthscipe, in old English, it was called,

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and it was about offering the work of prayer to God, to his glory.

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And that's a really upbeat thing.

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And so there's this sense of our whole lives being consecrated to God.

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And the hymn, Take My Life, And Let It Be, of course, is all about that.

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About the consecration of all of our lives,

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every part of our life, as we go through the journey of life.

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Getting started in the morning can be challenging at any age

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as we face whatever the day has in store for us.

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And so, a hymn that asks for God's blessing on our working day

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can be both prayerful and reassuring.

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The hymn that gets me through the working day is Amazing Grace.

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The words are incredibly powerful and it is, of course,

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by God's grace that we do get through our day,

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the empowering and the filling of the spirit that keeps us

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close to God and helps us to do all that's good in our lives.

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My most favourite hymn is Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind.

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And it seems to sum up for me my pilgrimage journey,

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really, with Christ.

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It talks of praising God, exalting God, it talks of deliverance,

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it talks of truth and it also talks of service.

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And at the end, acknowledging the Trinity

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that we believe in, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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Perhaps the lines,

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"Drop thy still dews of quietness till all our strivings cease

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"take from our souls the strain and stress,"

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I think that maybe the words I would think were the most

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appropriate on occasions when you're worried about something.

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All Things Bright And Beautiful.

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Because that just lifts me

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and it makes me think of all the things I'm grateful for.

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My favourite hymn is the hymn that my daddy wrote the words to.

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And it's called, You Are The Vine.

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# You are the vine

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# And we are the branches... #

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It's about that Jesus and God are the leaders and we are his children.

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I remember that lovely phrase, that advert when I was a child,

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"A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play."

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And I like to think that a hymn a day helps you work, rest and play.

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And this hymn, Lord Of All Hopefulness, takes us through the day

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and reminds us that God is with us all day, at any point in the day.

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And we can pray to him at any point of the day.

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And this hymn sums up that idea.

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Singing that hymn for us was the congregation in Cockermouth,

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a local community that pulled together

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after the 2009 Cumbrian floods devastated their area.

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Some disasters touch hearts on an international scale,

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like the sinking of the luxury liner the Titanic just over 100 years ago.

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We have a rather nice link with the Titanic here in this church

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because we've discovered that one of the people who painted

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the walls in fact went on to work on the bar of the Titanic

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which, of course, his work only lasted a few days, sadly.

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There is a story that as the Titanic was sinking, the band played on.

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This has been immortalised in films and so on,

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and that they played Nearer My God To Thee.

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There is a debate over which tune they used,

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whether it was the tune that we tend to use in England

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or the tune they tend to use in North America.

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The problem is the story probably isn't true.

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Exactly the same story exists in relation to the sinking

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of the SS Valencia in 1906 so we have to be a bit dubious about this story.

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Great hymn as it is and lovely as the idea

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that as the ship was sinking,

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the people were thinking, "Nearer My God To Thee."

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What we do know is that Easter had just happened

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when the Titanic sailed and there was an Easter service.

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100 people gathered and they sang Eternal Father, Strong To Save,

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which is perhaps ironic, and a hymn called On The Resurrection Morning,

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which is not one we know nowadays.

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But there was worship on the Titanic before it sank

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but whether they really sang Nearer My God To Thee

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as the ship was sinking, I think we have to have an open mind about that.

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As a nation we don't only sing hymns in times of trouble,

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we delve into our hymn books when we have got something to celebrate too.

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And we had so much to celebrate last year - our Queen's Diamond Jubilee,

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Britain hosting the Olympics

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and of course, this year is the Coronation anniversary.

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Some hymns have become really popular and famous

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and much used and much loved because they've been used

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at great occasions in the life of our nation or our Royal Family.

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The hymn I Vow To Thee, My Country was used both at the wedding

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of Princess Diana and the Prince of Wales and of course at her funeral.

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Two very different kinds of occasions, of course.

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That hymn united those occasions and united the nation.

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The Lord's My Shepherd was used by the Queen

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and Prince Philip at their wedding,

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and again at the service commemorating their 60th wedding anniversary.

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People often do that.

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They have their favourite hymns that they use on occasions

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that punctuate their lives.

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Some of these famous hymns take us out of church,

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sometimes even onto the football terraces,

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the great hymn Abide With Me, we all know, is associated with the FA Cup final

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and some people only sing that hymn in Wembley Stadium

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or perhaps at home on television.

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Some of the great royal events, the great celebrations,

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people do join in at home and sing the hymns too.

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This can help us join in the celebration,

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we can feel part of it by singing along.

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But it seems to me that a hymnody involves three things.

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You need words, of course you do.

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You need music, of course you do.

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But you need people.

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A hymn is not a hymn unless it is sung.

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It's all very well on the page,

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it is all very well having a lovely tune

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and you can play the tune without the words,

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you read the words without the tune

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but what you need to have a proper trinity of hymnody

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is the words and the music together with the people

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and in that way, the Spirit worships in us and through us

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and is working of God the Trinity.

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And the regal setting for our next hymn of joyful celebration

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is Christopher Wren's magnificent chapel

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at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

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Our Queen's reign has been graced by the very special partnership

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she shared with her consort, Prince Philip.

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In 2012, during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year,

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the Royal couple also celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

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And for many people, a Christian marriage is another of life's major milestones.

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On our wedding day we had Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven.

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We thought everybody would know it and join in and unify together.

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And Love Divine, I think, for obvious reasons -

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our love and God's love for us.

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My favourite hymn that we had at the wedding was

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The King Of Love My Shepherd Is.

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And I think the melody of that one is so beautiful,

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the lilting melody and the words are so special.

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Traditional hymns to me remind me of the contents of a treasured locket.

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Something like this one, that's my wedding locket.

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As we have in the locket, there is something

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of a loved one in the hymns.

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We have the story of the love of God and it comes to life.

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My favourite hymn, especially written for a Christian marriage,

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was featured in the Songs Of Praise programme from All Saints Church in Evesham

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to mark the day dedicated to the life of the patron saint of love and marriage, St Valentine.

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It is a fact of life that we all lose people we love.

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Parents, partners, friends.

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Jesus, Lover Of My Soul.

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I think that's a lovely, soft hymn,

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more spiritual than some of the other hymns.

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I find that they fetch back memories to me, good and bad,

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and it makes me think of people that have passed,

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you know, and the communion of saints.

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For All The Saints was played at my mother's funeral which,

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whenever I hear that, it creases me up.

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I can't really...

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..listen to it without having emotions.

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Seek Ye First is my favourite hymn.

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We sang it when we went to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage

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and it became our theme tune.

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I remember the people that were away with us

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and sadly, some of those folks are no longer with us.

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So that's why it is so dear to me.

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My family love Eternal Father.

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I had it at my wedding and my husband was in the Navy

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and we had it at his funeral and whenever it is sung in church,

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my daughter, if I look over towards her, she's crying.

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She loves that one.

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A hymn that is very important to me is The King Of Love My Shepherd Is.

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My husband spent two years in an Alzheimer's ward.

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He didn't recognise anybody, he didn't know us at all

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but you only had to sing that hymn to him

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and there was immediate recognition.

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and that lasted almost to the end of his life.

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May the king of love, who keeps and guides us,

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save us from our sins, hear our prayers

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and fire us with his word that we may live for Christ alone.

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And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father,

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the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always.

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CONGREGATION: Amen.

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Whether for grand public occasions

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or for much more private moments of joy or sorrow,

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hymns speak to us of the ups and downs of everyday life

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and how God's presence is constantly with us our whole lives through.

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Later this year we will reveal the UK's top ten favourite hymns

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but to find out what they are, we need you to cast your vote.

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Go to the Songs Of Praise website.

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Look at the list of 100 familiar hymns and choose your favourite.

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It couldn't be simpler.

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The ten most popular will be sung at the Big Sing at the Royal Albert Hall.

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Next week, join me for some more hymns

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that suit every season in the Christian calendar.

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