An ecumenical pianist

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Today I attended the funeral of Doris Oler, in the Rose Chapel at Boston Avenue Methodist Church. Doris passed away on Tuesday at the age of 76. Doris was an alto and a charter member of Coventry Chorale, and my wife and I sang with her in that group for many years. She always had a smile and a friendly word for us. Doris also sang in Boston Avenue's choir, taught vocal music in the Tulsa Public Schools, and was very active in Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. (Here's a link to the obituary that appeared in the Tulsa World yesterday.)

The presiding minister, Bill Tankersley, shared a funny anecdote. Doris grew up in Inola in the '30s and '40s. She learned to play piano at an early age and was good enough that she wound up playing at a few of the churches in town. The churches staggered their service times so that she could play the opening hymns at one church, slip out the door, walk to the next church, play their opening hymns, and so on, until it was time to play the closing hymn at the first church and start over with the rotation.

As part of the service, we read the 23rd Psalm responsively, but sitting there with nine other members of Coventry Chorale, there to honor a departed member of the Chorale, it seemed wrong not to be singing Thomas Matthews' setting of the psalm. (To hear a lo-fi version of it, scroll down to the bottom of that page and click the link with the text "The Lord Is My Shepherd.") I'm sure the others felt the pull, too.

This is beside the point, but... the first hymn we sang was "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven." We sang out of the current edition of the Methodist Hymnal, and it was hard not to laugh out loud at the lengths to which the editors went to avoid any use of the masculine pronoun in this version of the hymn. Most of the time it was a simple substitution of "God" for "him" and "God's" for "his." But "to his feet thy tribute bring" becomes "to the throne thy tribute bring." "In his hand he gently bears us," becomes "Motherlike, God gently bears us," to balance out the word "Fatherlike" at the beginning of the third verse. (Here are Henry Lyte's original lyrics, and here is the inclusified version.) There was nothing on the page to indicate an alteration. I don't like it any better when the Trinity Hymnal editors monkey with the lyrics to eliminate a suspected Arminian overtone, and I will stubbornly sing the original lyrics anyway*, but at least they note when a verse was altered by the editors.

I tried to stick to the lyrics as printed, but I found myself singing the familiar original lyrics instead. Knowing Doris, I think she would have understood, and probably even approved.

* I don't do this when I'm leading singing, however.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 5, 2007 11:05 PM.

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