The essence of our faith

The outgoing Moderator of the General Assembly, the Very Rev Lorna Hood, tells us about one of her favourite hymns.

Lorna_Hood_small"Have you any suggestions, minister?" I have often been asked that question when helping a family to organise a loved one's funeral. Or often they simply ask, "What would you have?" My answer depending on circumstances is usually the same; "Thine be the glory". I actually have a number of 'favourite' hymns but having to choose just one, I would have to go for this. It holds for me very personal memories but also expresses in words and in triumphant music the very essence of our faith.

On a personal note, it reminds me of my ordination in St Ninian’s Corstorphine in Edinburgh when it seemed to raise the roof on a Sunday evening in 1978 just a few days before my 25th birthday. In those days young ministers were not such an peculiarity! There were quite a number of us going into our first charges or remaining for a second year in the congregations we had served as Probationary Assistants. And when I look around, most of us are still serving in ministry. Although I have sung it rousingly since then I don't think it has been quite as inspiring as that night in 1978.

It also expresses for me like no other hymn the very essence of our faith. Traditionally sung at Easter it expresses the Good News of the resurrection – "Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb". The power and relevance of the resurrection is expressed as it encapsulates our faith in the everyday experience of the risen Lord, as an affirmation –"Life is naught without thee".

Most of all however this hymn gives the wonderful assurance that "Death has lost its sting". Many years ago I remember the late Professor Davidson complaining that so many organists when playing that other favourite, "The Lord's My Shepherd", play so softly in the 3rd verse. "That", he said "should be the verse we sing triumphantly and with conviction. For the Christian death has lost its power"! There is no playing softly with 'Thine be the glory'! Words and music unite in triumph.

I have just returned from visiting our partner churches in the Caribbean preaching and attending various services during Holy Week. Easter Sunday however was in St Ann's Church of Scotland in Port of Spain Trinidad. The good news of that day was proclaimed with the help of the Steel Band which was wonderful but how I wished for 'Thine be the glory'!