Your Top Three Hymns?

We’re going to riff off of Jonathan Aigner today. Over the weekend he noted a post by Chuck McKnight over at Hippie Heretic: “Top 25 Hymns of Progressive Christians.” Then, Jonathan asked his readers, from a more diverse theological and ecclesiastical background, to share some of theirs.

Here are the top ten hymns that still work for progressive Christians, according to McKnight’s unscientific poll:

  1. Amazing Grace
  2. How Great Thou Art
  3. Be Thou My Vision
  4. It Is Well with My Soul
  5. In the Garden
  6. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
  7. For the Beauty of the Earth
  8. Come, Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing
  9. Let There Be Peace on Earth
  10. Morning Has Broken

I encourage you to go to Happy Heretic and check out the rest of the list, along with Chuck’s comments.

Jonathan listed a few of his favorites in response, to prime the pump for his readers. He listed them in no particular order.

  • God Is Here
  • Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know
  • Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
  • Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
  • A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
  • Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above
  • There Is a Fountain
  • Thine Is the Glory
  • Of the Father’s Love Begotten
  • Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty

Generously, Jonathan provided YouTube samples so that you can those with which you are unfamiliar.

Here is what I would like us to today.

  1. Give me your top 3 hymns,
  2. Explain briefly what it is that you like about each one.

To get us started, here are my top 3.

Third: All Creatures of Our God and King

One of the most beautiful and joyful melodies carries a call to all creation to praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It delights me to sing a hymn of St. Francis, and I love to think of his spirit when I do.

Second: This Is My Father’s World

I’ve loved this hymn since childhood. I was first attracted to its gorgeous melody, but as I’ve grown older, I find that the third verse is the real reason this hymn packs a punch for me.

First: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

A great sturdy English hymn calling us to worship God, whose sovereign care, providence, and eternal love keep us now and forever.

Here is a marvelous rendition from the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey (2013).

28 thoughts on “Your Top Three Hymns?

  1. There is a large number of Cockburn songs in my Hymnody. I may just do a post on that some day!


  2. Be Thou My Vision/Lord of All Hopefulness

    All Creatures of Our God and King

    My Shepherd Will Supply My Need


  3. Haven’t been to church in awhile so my favorites are from the unholy and profane :-).

    If I Ever Lose My Faith – Sting. Brought me to tears a number of times on my road back.

    Creation Dream – Bruce Cockburn

    “Centered on silence, counting on nothing, I saw you standing on the sea
    And everything was, dark except for, sparks the wind struck from your hair
    Sparks that turned to, wings around you, angel voices mixed with seabird cries
    Fields of motion, surging outward, questions that contained their own reply’s…)

    The song is a glorious ,exhilarating exultation in the vein of Psalm 119 and/or a mushroom trip. Either way, it’s joyous.

    A newcomer – I Run to You by Lady Antebellum
    Easy retranslation to running into the Savior’s open arms.

    Sorry for coloring outside the lines here.


  4. Daniel, going to edit my comment to add “And Can It Be” – Another one that brings me to tears. Every. Single. Time.


  5. Only three ??? No can do, but I will be brief. 1. Praise to the Lord the Almighty – Growing up in all boys school in Africa, we sang this in our morning assembly, and had to come back at Lunch if we didn’t sing loud enough. The memory of hearing 600 boys at full voice still sends chills down my spine.
    There are two hymns that make we weep, almost every time. 2. What wondrous love is this. 3. It is well with my soul.
    Breaking the rules: 4. Be thou my vision. 5. Christ the Lord is risen today.
    These both connect with me in powerful ways.
    There are two more modern hymns by Graham Kendrick that I really appreciate as well.
    6. We believe in God the Father.
    7. King of the Nations
    And finally in a similar theme to Newsboys.
    8. He reigns.

    By the way two of the songs from the post of are in my top 2 least favourite hymns. But that can maybe be my post on another day. 😀


  6. As a long-time church musician, I find it hard to select only three, but some of my many favorites are:
    1. Be Thou My Vision
    2.. Amazing Grace
    3. For All the Saints
    (4. most anything by Charles Wesley)
    (5 many others, including In Christ Alone)


  7. Dana, we must be of the same generation: ‘Praise to the Lord’ was also our opening hymn at mass . . . .


  8. Two of my favorites come out of the Evangelical Covenant hymnal.
    Lina Sandell wrote Day by Day, And With Each Passing Moment, which is
    a beautiful Swedish Pietist hymn of assurance. She also wrote
    Children of the Heavenly Father, which is typically used at baptisms,
    and much loved by Covenanters.


  9. 1) The Lord Bless You and Keep You – discussed a few weeks ago
    2) In Christ Alone – Ditto what Rick Ro said
    3) Beyond the Sunset – a close call with many others, like Abide with Me.

    Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning,
    When with our Savior, heaven is begun;
    Earth’s toiling ended, O glorious dawning,
    Beyond the sunset, when day is done.

    Sure wish I could hear my Mom sing it one more time. She is still with us but age has taken her voice.


  10. I agree with Mule. There are so many lovely arrangements of Orthodox Liturgical music that send me soaring, and most are not sung by huge Moscow-School-style choirs. And I do think we should be finding some pre-Schism (not only Gregorian) music to which good English translations can be set. There are American composers of Orthodox liturgical music; some of them try to imitate Russian or Byzantine style, and I don’t cotton to imitations of anything. There is plenty of Russian and Byzantine original music out there, thank you. Other composers are crafting melodies with a more American sound.

    Long ago, I read at a reputable Orthodox web site (now forgotten) that the first Orthodox missionaries to Europe went to Bulgaria and based their liturgical music on Bulgarian folk tunes. Makes sense to me. Our American folk music heritage is mostly English/Irish/Scottish, and as I’ve come upon them, I’ve been mentally cataloguing tunes from the British Isles that could be used in the Liturgy; with a degree Minor in Music, I hope to be able to have skill enough to do something with them. Our own choir director has composed some lovely things that remind me of the liturgical music of colonial Mexico; though not Latino, he was born and raised in Carmel and was baptized at the Mission there, so his style is quite appropriate. Abp Dimitri of Dallas, of blessed memory, put together some liturgical music in Spanish, in which he was fluent. It’s going to take some time, but eventually there will be an American sensibility to Orthodox liturgical music, including also the flavors of Africa – which has very ancient Eastern Church roots.

    But I do love many western hymns, too. Hard to pick just three, but here are mine:

    1) Be Thou My Vision – such singable music, and words by St Patrick!

    2) “All Creatures of Our God and King” – wonderful tune – and words by St Francis of Assisi!

    3) “O God Beyond All Praising” – I found this one late in my western church sojourn, but took to it immediately. Tune by Gustav Holst (“Saturn”), poetry by Michael Perry, Anglican Canon of Rochester Cathedral. Most people know this tune sung with the lyrics “I vow to thee, my country”, but Perry wanted to write words more appropriate for Christian worship. Not public domain yet. (My only quibble is with “triumph” – a personal “allergy” – but that could be replaced by “thank you” or something else.)

    O God beyond all praising,
    we worship you today
    and sing the love amazing
    that songs cannot repay;
    for we can only wonder
    at every gift you send,
    at blessings without number
    and mercies without end:
    we lift our hearts before you
    and wait upon your word,
    we honor and adore you,
    our great and mighty Lord.

    The flower of earthly splendor
    in time must surely die,
    its fragile bloom surrender
    to you the Lord most high;
    but hidden from all nature
    the eternal seed is sown –
    though small in mortal stature,
    to heaven’s garden grown:
    for Christ the Man from heaven
    from death has set us free,
    and we through him are given
    the final victory!

    Then hear, O gracious Savior,
    accept the love we bring,
    that we who know your favor
    may serve you as our king;
    and whether our tomorrows
    be filled with good or ill,
    we’ll triumph through our sorrows
    and rise to bless you still:
    to marvel at your beauty
    and glory in your ways,
    and make a joyful duty
    our sacrifice of praise.

    Words © 1982, 1987 The Jubilate Group (admin. Hope Publishing Company)

    Chaplain Mike, “Praise to the Lord” was sung as our opening hymn nearly EVERY WEEK in my Catholic parish growing up 😉



  11. Speaking of “new”, I was in Amsterdam once and visited the Niew Kerk (New Church) where a pair of my ancestors were married around the year 1640. It received that name because construction commenced at that rather late date of 1385! Thanks for the correction.


  12. Yup, I also like “Es Ist Ein Ros’ Entsprungen” better than “Stille Nacht” – but the latter is charming sung by just a few voices with guitar accompaniment, as originally done.

    “Wachet Auf”, like “Joy to the World”, is actually a Second Coming hymn. Western Advent does have that secondary theme running through it, but both songs have always sounded a bit out of place to me in Advent – just me, I’m sure.



  13. Forgive me, Steve, the term is ison. It’s actually rather a new development, first appearing in the 1500s – “new” is a relative term in the Orthodox Church 🙂



  14. If contemporary hymns count, all-time favorite is…
    1) “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend. A perfect match of lyrics and melody.

    At the risk of being boring, my next favorite is:
    2) “Amazing Grace” – I especially like this one sung to the melody of “House of the Rising Sun.”

    And finally…
    3) “I Need Thee Every Hour” – Oh, gosh. Whenever I sing this I get chills up and down my spine.


  15. I watched Lady Diana’s funeral some twenty years ago and was blown away by Orthodox composer John Tavener’s Song for Athena. Orthodox music frequently uses what is called a rison, a sustain low note that backs up the melody. I love that.


  16. I don’t know whether I’m a progressive Christian, exactly. I grew up in a fairly strict Reformed church and I think most of my fellow congregation members would be horrified if they knew what I thought on some issues, so maybe I am.

    My church mostly sings Psalms, to the Geneva tunes. My favourite of those is probably the Lord’s Supper hymn “Come Take By Faith.”

    I have a deep affection for the old Lutheran hymns, and “Er ist ein Ros entsprungen” would be my favourite of those.

    The one I want sung at my funeral is Charles Wesley’s “Light of the World” – such deep comfort in the words. Here’s a wonderful performance by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band: The graphics are a bit ordinary but the lyrics are included.


  17. I don’t think I fit into the “Progressive Christian” category, except by default in the absurd Patheos taxonomy. So far as I can tell, a “Progressive Christian” is an Evangelical, but substituting all those social issues Jesus kept droning on about in place of the pelvic issues that Jesus didn’t actually talk all that much about, but which oversight many later Christians have striven to correct. I agree on the priorities, but I am not Evangelical, as the word is typically used today. My taste in hymnody runs accordingly. Here we go, with the proviso that as me tomorrow and the list may be different:

    (1) Ein Feste Burg, of course. It is a cultural imperative, sort of like I have a generational imperative to watch Star Wars films, with the difference that with Ein Feste Burg you have better odds that any given iteration won’t suck. Here is one that you could plausibly find in an actual worship service, in a church serious about its music program and given an organist prone to showing off:

    (2) Wachet Auf. Yes, Veni Veni is the go-to Advent hymn and it’s hard to argue with, but I am nonethelss partial to Wachet Auf. I couldn’t find a YouTube version I liked set as a congregational hymn, so here is a good performance of the cantata movement, which is what I hear in my head as I sing the hymn setting:

    (3) Es ist ein Ros entsprungen. Y’all thought I would go for Stille Nacht for a Christmas hymn, but Es ist ein Ros entsprungen is the one that knocks me over every year. Here is the St. Olaf choir, which we German Lutherans grudgingly admit isn’t bad:


  18. I’d consider myself a progressive Christian, but there are very few hymns that I actively dislike as long as the words are tweaked to not assume all Christians are male. My only complaint is when worship gets theologically monotonous – e.g. every single song being about the cross, or getting to heaven, or any other single isolated part of the great work of God.

    Some of my favorites:

    Love Divine, All Loves Excelling: Wesley’s understanding of salvation as total transformation of the believer into the image of Christ is a welcome break from songs that focus only on salvation as forgiveness of sins.

    Lord Of All Hopefulness: It’s a great vision of God being present in, and sanctifying, every aspect of our day-to-day lives.

    O Gracious Light, Lord Jesus Christ: The oldest Christian hymn text in existence, sung to the tune of the Tallis Canon. You can’t consider yourself a church geek if you don’t love this one.


  19. This won’t be much of an advertisement for Orthodoxy, but when you wade the Bosporus you leave behind the entire repertoire of Western hymnody, the good and the bad. You will not have your aesthetic sense violated by repeated verses of ‘Rise, Jesus, Rise’,but neither will you ever again hear ‘For All The Saints’ sung by a multi-voice choir.

    This is kind of a shame since there are lots and lots of hymns which have a pre-Schism precedence and would be perfectly acceptable in Orthodox worship. “Lead, Kindly Light” is of course taken from the Phos Hilarion of our Vesper services, and “Be Thou My Vision” actually helped precipitate my conversion to Orthodoxy when I realized I cared more for it than for just about all other hymns put together, yet it said nothing about imputed righteousness or penal substitution.

    There are some recompenses though. The Orthodox sing, or chant, all of their services, so from time to time, if the choir is good, you hear some real gems. Our bishop commissioned a marvelous rendering of the Cherubic Hymn which is doable by even the smallest and most amateur of choirs, yet when done in full regalia rivals the Tchaikovsky. I also like the Agne Parthene, and of course, I wait all year for the Paschal hymns, especially The Angle Cried.


  20. My second ‘favorite’ hymn celebrates the sacredness of the Creator God and His mercy:

    “Hear, Creator of the heavens, what the poet asks;
    May come softly unto me, your mercy
    So I call on Thee, for You have created me . . .


  21. “I heard the voice of Jesus” – Horatius Bonar (1846)
    I think it’s the expression of Jesus’ grace and care for us that systematically brings tears to my eyes.
    (I actually learnt of this one first via Edwin Hawkins!)

    1. I heard the voice of Jesus say,
    “Come unto Me and rest;
    Lay down, thou weary one, lay down,
    Thy head upon My breast.”
    I came to Jesus as I was,
    Weary and worn and sad;
    I found in Him a resting-place,
    And He has made me glad.

    2. I heard the voice of Jesus say,
    “Behold, I freely give
    The living water; thirsty one,
    Stoop down and drink and live.”
    I came to Jesus, and I drank
    Of that life-giving stream.
    My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
    And now I live in Him.

    3. I heard the voice of Jesus say,
    “I am this dark world’s Light.
    Look unto Me; thy morn shall rise
    And all thy day be bright.”
    I looked to Jesus, and I found
    In Him my Star, my Sun;
    And in that Light of Life I’ll walk
    Till travelling days are done.

    “It Is Well With My Soul” – Horatio Spafford (1873)
    I think it’s probably the story of this man’s suffering coupled with the words that makes this one stand out.

    When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.

    It is well, (it is well),
    With my soul, (with my soul)
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.

    Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

    My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

    For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

    But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

    And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

    Meet and right it is to Praise – Charles Wesley (1842)
    I am to Wesley as Obelix is to the cauldron.

    What makes this one stick in my mind is partly the rousing tune we sung it to, but also the subject of courage and God’s provision in the face of adversity.

    Meet and right it is to praise
    God, the giver of all grace,
    God, whose mercies are bestowed
    On the evil and the good;
    He prevents his creatures’ callm,
    Kind and mercitful to all;
    Makes his sun on sinners rise,
    Showers his blessings from the skies.

    Least of all thy creatures, we
    Daily thy salvation see;
    As by hevaenly manna fed,
    Through a world of dangers led;
    Through a wilderness of cares;
    Through ten thousand thousand snares,
    More than now our hearts conceive,
    More than we could know or live!

    Here, as in a lion’s den,
    Undevoured we still remain;
    Pass secure the watery flood,
    Hanging on the arm of God;
    Here we raise our voices higher,
    Shout in the refiner’s fire,
    Clap our hands amidst the flame,
    Glory give to Jesu’s name.

    Jesu’s name in Satan’s hour
    Stands our adamantine tower;
    Jesus doth his own defend,
    Love, and save us to the end.
    Love shall make us persevere
    Till our conquering Lord appear,
    Bear us to our thrones above,
    Crown us with his heavenly love.


  22. “Oh! Hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us
    And black are the waters that sparkled so green
    The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
    At rest in the hollows that rustle between
    Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow
    Oh weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease
    The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee
    Asleep in the arms of the slow swinging seas!
    Asleep in the arms of the slow swinging seas!”
    (“The Seal Lullaby”)

    words from a most beloved hymn . . . this gentle lullaby, sometimes played at the funerals of young children, seems especially meaningful to those who mourn in the depths of a grief few can imagine


  23. 1. O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

    Writer George Matheson was 19, engaged and going blind. His fiance dumped him when he told her.

    He wrote the hymn at age 40, the night before his sisters wedding.

    O Cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to fly from thee;
    I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
    And from the ground there blossoms red
    Life that shall endless be.

    2. Abide With Me

    Writer Henry Francis Lyte was an Anglican priest who suffered poor health. He got TB and penned this just weeks before his death.

    Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
    But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
    Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
    Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

    Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
    Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
    In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

    3. Beneath the Cross of Jesus

    Author Elizabeth Cecilia Douglas Clephane also suffered poor health through out her life, yet she ministered to others who were suffering. She died at 39 and this hymn was published 3 years after her death.

    I take, O cross, your shadow
    for my abiding place;
    I ask no other sunshine
    than the sunshine of his face,
    content to let the world go by,
    to know no gain nor loss,
    my sinful self my only shame,
    my glory all the cross.


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