This week’s Random Book(s) of The Week are two religious song books which I inherited, and, being unable to consign them to the charity shop, found a home for aboard the rather majestic electronic organ which my dad heroically rescued when the other fellas on a decorating job threatened to take a hammer to it.
I haven’t been able to find out much about the Congregational Hymnary, but there is quite a tale behind the Billy Graham Song Book. Graham is a celebrity American Christian evangelist renowned for hosting the annual Billy Graham Crusades from 1947 until his retirement in 2005. His large indoor and outdoor rallies, radio and TV sermons, and various media and publishing outlets mean he has preached the gospel to more people than anyone in the history of Christianity. No wonder he has had the ear of successive American presidents.
In such a long career there will of course be some controversy but I certainly punched the air and cried Hallelujah when I read about Graham’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement (including bailing Martin Luther King out of jail) and his refusal to racially segregate his revivals and crusades:
…we have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride.
Sitting between these two tomes we have sheet music for the Nirvana classic ‘Come As You Are’, which the other half is trying to recreate on the organ (yes, this is actually happening…). In my more philosophical moments, I find this placement quite symbolic. Whatever Mr Cobain (#forevermissed) was really banging on about here, I wonder if his words could suggest a sensible approach to religion in fractious times. ‘Come as you are, guv/m’lady. Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jew, whatever. I don’t have a gun. Let’s all get together for a nice sing-along round the old Joanna. You hum it I’ll play it.’ One has to hope…