SIKESTON -- For at least two hours Sunday, political views and personal feelings will be set aside as a variety of people from the community come together to sing and pray for American troops during a community hymn sing.
"Sunday will be a chance to bring all religions, all races and all classes of people together to devote time to worship God and pray for our country and troops," said Harry Howard, originator of the idea to have a hymn sing.
Although the event, which is scheduled from 3-5 p.m. Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in Sikeston, was planned weeks ago by Howard, it became extremely timely that prayers for American service men and women be included in the hymn sing, he said.
"I got to thinking about the hymn sing and with the war going on, I thought, 'Let's do some praying and singing for our people -- locally and nationwide,'" noted Howard.
The service will include congregations singing 12 favorite hymns as well as a brief history of the music. Leaders from a variety of churches will introduce the songs and offer prayers for the needs of the community and nation. A candle will be lit for each song.
A lot of the older ladies felt gospel singing has become contemporary so it was decided to do a hymn sing with more of the classical Christian songs everybody knows, Howard explained.
"A lot of the young people don't know the old hymns so this is a way for them to hear them," Howard said.
Hymns scheduled for singing are "How Great Thou Art," "On Eagle's Wings," "Shout to the Lord," "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," "Blessed Assurance," "I'll Fly Away," "How Firm a Foundation," "Because He Lived," "It Is Well With My Soul," "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and "Be Still My Soul." Steve Clinton will be playing bass guitar for the hymn sing. He said he thinks it's a wonderful thing for the community to come together and praise God.
"We need some camaraderie and fellowship in the community, especially with the state the world is in right now," noted Herman Gardner, who will be singing "I'll Fly Away" and "Blessed Assurance" on Sunday.
Gardner said it's actually been neat to see how the songs came to be and why they came to be. Most of the songs were created by the songwriter's trying times and then they bring good things into view, he said. It's trial before their testimony of it, he added.
For example, "I'll Fly Away" was written by a man who worked in cotton fields and who had led a hard life and singing was a spiritual endeavor for him, Gardner said. "Blessed Assurance" is about a lady who is blind, but sees that Jesus is with her always.
"After reading the background of the songs, I have a greater appreciation for them. They've grown dear to my heart," Gardner said.
A special offering will be collected and administered by the Sikeston Ministerial Alliance toward the collaborative efforts of all ministries in meeting the needs of the poor.
"As funds have continued to decrease our pastors and lay leaders have recognized the need for more creative and effective efforts to be made that will enhance the work of our existing ministries," Howard said.
It is the hope of the committee that the gathering of people of all faiths from across the community will evolve into a quarterly event, including service for the National Prayer Day in May and the Messiah Sing Along in December, which was introduced by Howard to Sikeston in 2002.
"The main focus of the hymn sing is on the peace of the city and our country," said Howard. "We also want the people who attend to appreciate the importance of music during worship."
Howard has been working with Janie Pfefferkorn to make the hymn sing happen and said he is so glad everything is fitting into place.
"This is so great," Howard aid. "God is the center of everything we're doing."
For more information about the community hymn sing, contact Howard at 471-3859 or Pfefferkorn at 472-4141.