By Steven W. Manskar
Whenever the early Methodists gathered in their societies, classes, and bands, they sang Charles' hymns. British Methodist historian Henry Rack tells us, "Hymns, more than any other single source except the Bible, were the means by which the ordinary Methodist could obtain a knowledge of what Wesley thought Methodism taught" (Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism, page 414). Hymns were intended for singing at all Methodist gatherings and for personal reflection and meditation. Charles' hymns played a critical role in forming the faith of the people called Methodists.
The United Methodist Hymnal contains 55 of Charles Wesley's hymns. They may be found in nearly every section. This is a small sample of his vast body of work. The collection of Wesley hymns in our hymnal provides abundant choices for use in United Methodist worship and other occasions when members of the church gather.
I offer a modest proposal for this coming tercentennial year: Whenever the people called United Methodists gather, they shall sing at least one of Charles Wesley's hymns. There are enough in the hymnal for congregations to sing a different Wesley hymn each week. Encourage the members to take the hymn home with them for study, reflection, and meditation.
With apologies to David Letterman, here are the "Top 10 Reasons United Methodists Should Sing Charles Wesley Hymns Every Time They Gather." There is actually no order to this list. It is a list of ten simple reasons why United Methodist Christians will benefit from regularly singing, learning, and memorizing the hymns of Charles Wesley.
10. Charles Wesley hymns communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ.
9. Charles Wesley hymns get theology and belief into the head and the heart.
8. Charles Wesley hymns are beautiful and rich poems that elevate the heart and mind toward God and out into the world.
7. Charles Wesley hymns help people understand the dynamic of grace as prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying.
6. Charles Wesley hymns teach a vocabulary of Christian faith.
5. Charles Wesley hymns may be sung to a variety of common tunes. Many are written in meters that are meant to be easily sung.
4. Charles Wesley hymns, when made a regular part of worship, will create a common identity that communicates and forms community character.
3. Charles Wesley hymns help to teach the meaning of the sacraments.
2. Charles Wesley hymns help to teach the meaning of the seasons of the church calendar.
1. Charles Wesley hymns are one of the Wesleyan tradition's great gifts to the
Manskar is director of accountable discipleship at The General Board of Discipleship in