Have you ever wondered whether the hymns that we sing Sunday after Sunday have any real-world relevance for our lives? Or has it ever crossed your mind that the big, heavy hymnal you see in the wooden pews could help us to grow in our faith, just as a good Christian book or study guide would?
Singing Through the Storms of Life is eager to show us just how much we have been missing when we physically and mentally shut the hymnal at the end of each service.
This book by Mary Y. T. Gan, the Founding Principal of the Methodist School of Music, is a lovely reminder that hymns can be a powerful source of support and encouragement, especially during our darkest moments.
Mary has selected 23 hymns from the 16th to 21st centuries, and provided the backgrounds of the hymns, matching them with Scripture references, reflections, and prayers. The result is a multi-faceted book offering inspiration and assurance. The themes covered are wide-ranging – from comfort, grief, and trust, to even natural disasters and war.
Apart from regular favourites like ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ and ‘It is Well with My Soul’, there are some lesser-sung pieces like ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’, as well as more unknown pieces composed in recent years by living Asian and North American hymn writers or composers.
Lest we think that great hymns were written only by old and renowned composers, the book ends with two very poignant testimonies by Ms Ellena Yeo and the late Mr Soo Ewe Jin, friends of the author. Ewe Jin wrote a new song, ‘Rainbow’, and Ellena composed a new tune, ‘YUXING’, out of their personal experiences of cancer and loss of loved ones respectively. Their new compositions underscore the relevance of hymns in whatever crises we may be going through.
Another hymn that was of great interest to me was ‘When Memory Fades’, a song about Alzheimer’s disease, aging, and memory loss. It was specifically written for those struggling with the emotional turmoil of this merciless condition, whether as a patient or a caregiver. Again, this hymn speaks of a very real situation in life that some of us may be going through, as Mary did when taking care of her late mother-in-law, to whom she dedicated the new tune.
Other than being a musician, Mary also writes simply and beautifully. For example, the prayers she has penned to round off each hymn are moving, biblically-based, and relevant, suitable for use in both personal and corporate devotions.
Unsure what the hymns might sound like? The book makes accompanying tunes conveniently accessible through the use of QR codes that, when scanned, take the reader immediately to specially-prepared YouTube videos providing lyrics alongside the backing tracks.
Through this book, may both hymn lovers and contemporary music fans be inspired to explore these 23 hymns and the many others that are the legacy of the Church at large, so that when the inevitable “Storms of Life” come crashing at us, we may be found “Singing Through” them with joy and gusto!
Silas Wong –
worships at Wesley Methodist Church.
Book cover artwork courtesy of Mary Gan