Favorite Hymn Night


In many fundamentalist churches there is a phenomenon known as “Favorites Night” which is code for “the pastor is taking the night off.” The bulk of these services consist of church members chortling in sadistic glee as they search the hymnbook for obscure songs in hopes of making the pianist lose her sanctification.

In aid of this noble goal of torturing the accompanist, the well-versed fundamentalists can consult the handy Index of Songs By Meter found in the back of the hymnal and select something like “What Hath the Lord Done for Thee?” in 7/12 meter. Pianists love it when people do that. They laugh and laugh.

Favorites night is also a great time to dust off one of the following favorite numbers of leather-lunged fundies everywhere:

– Wonderful Grace of Jesus
– The Awakening Chorus (if you’re a PCC grad)
– The Church In The Wildwood
– Son of a Preacher Man

Throw in a few minutes of Testimony Time and the pastor can rest easy until next week. Men on the First, Ladies on the Second, and All together on the last!

70 thoughts on “Favorite Hymn Night”

  1. Don’t forget “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” Also, “The Awakening Chorus” is big in old time Methodist circles, too. In my new job, the older adults have a 15 minute song singing before Sunday school. I’ve heard “The Awakening Chorus” and “Master, the Tempest Is Raging.” I haven’t hear MtTIR since leaving BJU in 1978.

  2. Oh this is so true and I remember many a service like this. Of you forgot the part about giving the reason you like the song. Saying you liked just because wasn’t enough you had to come up with a good reason. A touching story, or some phrase within the song that really “spoke to you.” And then the more obscure the song with a cool reference the more street cred you had. Well that is how I remember it anyway.

  3. I’m curious…

    Am I the only one here that would purposely pick hymns where none of the verses could be skipped for the song to make sense?

    My favorites were:
    A Mighty Fortress is Our God
    O Sacred Head Now Wounded

    The pastor would read the words, realize that the third verse couldn’t be skipped, and come up with different solutions.

  4. what an oxymoron that Wonderful Grace of Jesus was an IFB favorite. The first words to the song are “Wonderful Grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin”. If only they believed that.

  5. I’ve heard you say that before Darrell. That’s interesting.

    i guess at the church I grew up at it was one service where you could see the people actually enjoy worshipping and singing praises to God….vs. just doing it because it was the second hymn before the offering and we were supposed to do it.

  6. It wasn’t the singing that bothered me. It was when the Spirit moved people to sob through their entire life’s story (every. single. time) and then walk around hugging everybody in the building. And that dude’s beard was scratchy let me tell you.

    yeah. sometimes it got just a little weird.

  7. I’ve been to churches where they were a lot of fun. . . . It all just depends.

    Yeah, I used to enjoy these as a kid. Not only did you get out of hearing a sermon, you got a shot at singing seasonal favorites you’d normally have to wait for particular holidays to hear. We kids used to compete to see who could request “The Star-Spangled Banner” first.

  8. As a pianist, being in a small church growing up and being the pianist, and having your father as the music director, I can say that the only real terror in life is to hear the words “we’re going to let you pick the songs tonight”. My friends that were also my age always found the hardest songs, or the most unbiblical hymns that could exist.

  9. I loved singing the song “And Can it be?”. The leader would always pick verses 1, 2 and 4 which would strongly irratate me. How could one ignore the 3rd verse.

    “Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
    Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
    Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
    I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”

    1. This Hymn is kind of the Methodist National Anthem. I grew if Methodist, and I always loved this Hymn. Coming from Northern Ireland I always lived “Be thou my Vision” . I also still love the hymn “I cannot tell how he who angels worship” when sung to the the Derry Air (tune of “Danny Boy”) I find the combination of that tune and the very powerful words of the hymn to be very moving,

  10. At the last fundy church I attended, Church in the Wildwood was anathema. It wasn’t spiritual enough for the pastor. Our “fellowships” were lots of fun, too. There was always a “fellowship” meal, of course, but you were limited on how long you could linger lest the conversation cease to be edifying. They varied in the “fun” too. For awhile they played Bible Trivia in teams. Then, when that got beat to death, they started showing Way of the Master DVDs. Over, and over. Lest I forget, there were “marriage seminar” fellowships where homegrown skits were acted out on the depredations of unspiritual marriage partners.

  11. I love singing Christmas songs during July. What exactly is wrong with celebrating Christ’s advent the entire year?

    @Lizzy F.

    Context or message has no meaning on a great deal of congregations and songleaders alike during hymn-a-thons. This got hammered home to me a few months ago when I was in a church that just sang the first verse of “In the Bleak Midwinter” right before the message. Just the first, no more. Go read the first verse and tell me what exactly I was supposed to get out of that in a church service.

  12. @ JimE, LOVE that song! Love the 3rd verse too! I always get goosebumps when I sing, “My chains fell off!”

    @ Susan, my parents LOVED “The Church in the Wildwood”. The “come, come, come, come” is so fun to sing! There was a man in my church growing up who HATED “I’ve Got a Mansion”. I always remembered that.

    @ Stephen Bean, I can’t imagine anyone who is even thinking would EVER sing just the first verse of “In the Bleak Midwinter”!

    BTW, when I was a teen just starting to be the church pianist, these nights were scary, but after I gained experience I usually loved them as much as the congregation except when the songleader chose not to sing more than one verse of one that I thought needed more. (And often in later years, that songleader was my husband! LOL)

  13. I don’t even fear the obscure hymn proposed by the kids in the back row! I can sightread anything in the hymnal now. (However, I do find praise music often challenging! After years in the IFB, I just can’t get the rhythm of a lot of those songs without listening to them over and over on the radio first!)

  14. The Awakening Chorus (if you’re a PCC grad)

    I always requested that when I was a kid. Everyone would groan. I remember once the song leader turned down my request.

  15. We sang “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” in Chapel once. Ron Hamilton was the song leader. BJJr got in the pulpit and spoke for at least 5 minutes on what a pompous song that was. Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t.

  16. Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t.

    Yeah, I know (or knew, I guess) an exceptionally fundy guy at BJ who once called “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” and I believe I’m quoting exactly, “the quintessential Baptist circus song.” One more proof that the people fundies disdain most are other fundies.

  17. “Hold the Fort” gave eveybody their exercise waving their big ol’ KJV Wide margin Old Scofield back to heaven….The bigger the Bible the Better the Saint!

    And don’t forget

    “Honey in the Rock.”

  18. I detest Wonderful Grace of Jesus, I destest the music, NO ONE in our church sings it RIGHT!!! @Jim E: we now sing the 3rd verse, it has somehow become Pastor’s favorite. Maybe ya’ll need to git back here sometime……

  19. As a church pianist, I approve this post. 🙂 Although, being able to play Wonderful Grace of Jesus faster than the congregation could sing it, without missing any notes, was the right of passage for a church pianist. I once knocked a hymnal off the top of the piano playing that song.

    1. I will always associate “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” with my Father. Dad loved to sing in the Church Choir and this was kind of their theme tune, so to speak. Nobody could sing it better than them. Sadly the choir only gets together for Christmas and a few other special events. I heard this hymn sung on television recently and it brought back good memories. I was never in the choir – I am like Dad in a lot of ways but I didn’t get his singing voice.

  20. As someone with zero musical ability, can someone explain the second paragraph?

    @Lizzy F: In my experience it didn’t matter, because the leader would skip the third verse anyways. 🙁 On favorite hymn night we usually only sang the first verse, and if we were REALLY lucky we got to sing the fourth verse as well. You have no idea how excited I was upon leaving fundamentalism and getting to sing ALL the verses, regardless of how many of them there were!

  21. We would have different people lead the “favorite hymns night”. And I always found it HILARIOUS when a leader only wanted to sing 1 verse from everyone, and some people would veto/nix his method by either requesting which verse of the song they wanted sung, or have the temerity to request 2 specific verses be sung. Classic power struggles in the midst of favorite hymny night was a major win for teenaged Rob.

  22. @Don Oh, don’t even go there with the waving the KJV thing for “Hold the Fort”!

    Back when I was part of a Baptist church, we used to have Hymn Nights a lot. I would always pick the Christian warfare songs (just not “Onward, Christian Soldiers”; oh how I hate hearing that one during Baptist visits). My favorite was “The Banner of the Cross”. Loved singing the harmony on that one.

  23. last time this came up, somebody mentioned that they were the kid who would request the “amen”‘s in the back of the hymnal. i can’t remember who said it, but i think about it from time to time & chuckle. thanks, sir or madame.

    re: “wonderful grace of Jesus”- this was one of my 3 faves as a fundy. the other 2 were “it is well” & “i am resolved”. not so much for the messages, but for the bitchin’ bass parts. also “up from the grave He arose” was a good one, but we only got that once a year.

    as a kid, i loved “mansion over the hilltop.” then i realized (thanks to another fundy) that the song doesn’t mention God at all & really doesn’t qualify as any sort of hymn. it’s just a song about some cosmic disneyland and how super it’ll be for those of us who said the magic prayer.

  24. RE: “Mansion over the Hilltop”. . .So funny! I remember singing that as a kid. Now, I think that it’s actually a really self-centered and even greedy song. And what’s with the “harp” part in the second verse? No wonder I grew up feeling that heaven would be very pretty, but quite boring.

    Does anyone remember “There’s Been A Great Change Since I’ve Been Born Again”??? This was interesting, as you could insert verses like “The things I used to wear, don’t wear them anymore”, and “The friends I used to have, don’t have them anymore” (SERIOUSLY! I am not making this one up!)

  25. @RJW I remember that one! Would just keep on listing all the things we used to have & used to do and don’t have or do anymore. The friends one was particularly biting just banging home the idea that most people are people you should stay the heck away from, buch of sinners!

  26. My favorite memory of pick the hymns night (our church did this every Saturday night) was the time one of my friends picked “If Men go to Hell, Who Cares?” Nobody knew the song, and he got dragged out for a severe talking-to from his grandmother.

    My favorites were the ones with a notable bass part, because they were funny to me when I was 8. “Life’s Evening Sun is Sinking Low” was a good one. And has anybody else on here ever heard “The Jericho Road”? It’s really a stupid song, but man, does it have an awesome bass lead.

  27. @Mo – you said “last time this came up, somebody mentioned that they were the kid who would request the “amen”‘s in the back of the hymnal.”

    It wasn’t me – but me and the pastors kid used to do this too. LOL.

  28. @ Don- what they don’t realize is that is wasn’t really a pull/find that we sung it more than once a week right 😀 That and Hallelujah What A Savior, which we had to sing over and over again. I think I remember singing that one 5 times in a row one time.

  29. @RJW: I, too, grew up thinking that heaven would be boring, though I don’t think I ever thought it would be pretty. Frankly the fundy view of heaven is not appealing to me at all. (I almost feel like a heretic for writing that, but it’s true!)

  30. My #FundamentalistLifeSkillz
    I know the first second and fourth verse of all the hymns in the hymn book. What was wrong with that third verse?

    How did the third verse become universally acceptable to skip?

  31. Re: Wonderful Grace of Jesus

    I have to side with Jr. I always dread when that song fires up–the whole tennis match between male and female parts is mega-frustrating.

    There’s also some Celtic-sounding song that always springs up. I forget the name of that one.

  32. @ Amanda, Heaven sounded boring to me too which then added guilt to me because I wasn’t longing for heaven. One book I found that helped me was Joni Eareckson Tada’s “Heaven” because she expressed feelings I’d had myself about heaven just not sounding as great as it’s supposed to be. Her conclusions are biblical and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it! For kids, “Let’s Talk about Heaven” by Debby Anderson is my favorite. While the pictures are cartoonish, the words are biblical and inspiring! My daughter loved it; I read it to her often. When she was five, she said, “I can’t wait to see Jesus . . . Each time I’m scared of dying, I can read that book!”

  33. @Jordan: I sang Be Thou My Vision in a women’s trio, an the lady who introduced it took the time to explain to the congregation what that song meant. She felt they would not understand the song. And, this WAS a KJVO church, so I don’t know what her problem was.

  34. @PK she was probably explaining that this song was about a secondary source of vision, because as all fundies know… The pastor is the primary source of vision for both the corporate church and the individual. She just wanted to make it clear that if you make Jesus the primary source of vision for your life you are breaking the chain of command, subverting the authority of the Man of God thus, going against God’s anointed… for which you will burn in hell forever. (for chain of command org chart see: http://www.stufffundieslike.com/2010/07/attendence-to-special-meetings/ )

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