By Carl Stagner
The social media savvy have come to expect a certain “blast-from-the-past” every Thursday. Popularly known as Throwback Thursday, hashtag (#) TBT, these weekly tweets and Facebook posts take followers and fans back in time. On Church of God social media pages, these posts sometimes take us back as much as a century. More often than not, #ThrowbackThursday highlights one classic hymn or spiritual song written by one or more of several Church of God heritage songwriters, including Barney E. Warren and Charles W. Naylor. Church of God Convention 2015 is your opportunity to do more than just stare at a scanned page from the hymnal. On Wednesday, June 24, plan to join director Joe Gregory and accompanist Jean Shackleton for a morning of singing the timeless hymns of our heritage at CHOG Convention 2015.
The Church of God has always been a singing church. From the earliest days of our movement, it was singing that helped to quickly disseminate the message of the reformation. Few could forget heritage standards like “A Child of God” and “There’s Joy in the Lord.” How can the heart not rejoice in the singing of “I Will Praise Him, Hallelujah!” or “What a Mighty God We Serve!”? The rich content of Church of God heritage music touches the soul, spanning the ages and the cultural spectrum. Unlike other wonderful genres of worship music, the heritage songs allow us to sing our theology.
“To me, Church of God hymnody stands out because it contains our theology,” Joe Gregory explains. “It stands out because of the musical texture (the singing of harmony parts) and the uniqueness of our movement processing its own rich hymnody. We were, and are, a singing people!”
Jean Shackleton couldn’t agree more. “The Church of God heritage hymns give us an identity,” Jean reflects, “and hearing and playing them most of my life brings a feeling of unity with other Christians, especially in our movement. The hymns teach our theology that our children and young people need to continue to pass along. They are a source of hope and encouragement to my soul and spirit.”
This year, the Heritage Sing-Along will once again afford convention goers an alternative option to a General Assembly session. How appropriate it is for a wonderful worship service of heritage music to take place in a state so full of Church of God history! Numerous Church of God pioneers and stalwarts developed deep roots in Oklahoma, including—but not limited to—Mary Cole, Nora Hunter, Otto Linn, Lena Shoffner Matthesen, Elsie Egermeier, John Morrison, Dale Oldham, and Chuck and Donna Thomas. Though these songs were written by such Church of God pioneers as much as 135 years ago, the truth contained in them never gets old.
“There is a high value in singing our theology, for a host of reasons,” Joe explains. “First of all, our theology is based on God’s Word and the truth found therein. Thus, singing our theology underlines our biblical understanding of the faith in our minds and our hearts. Second, it gives us an additional avenue, besides preaching, to affirm and teach what we believe. Third, singing our theology reminds us who we are as a movement within the ecumenical church. And lastly, it aids us in passing on to the next generation our deeply held values and convictions.”
So, as Robert Reardon so often encouraged the Church of God, keep singing. Keep singing.
Register for Church of God Convention 2015 (June 22–25 at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City) at www.chogconvention.org. The Heritage Sing-Along is scheduled for 9:30 AM CDT on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.