AUCKLAND, NZ -- Although modern music has its place, traditional hymns often have deeper teaching and meaning says an Auckland pastor whose hymn groups are beginning to attract a following.

John Clayton, a pastor at Pakuranga Christian Fellowship, said he was inspired to start home groups in which people could learn from the hymn writers and hymns after reading an article in Challenge Weekly.

“I was challenged by the article that said among other things – ‘don’t throw away your hymn books... we have a rich heritage...’”

Mr. Clayton held the first home group at his house on Easter Saturday and although he was worried about how many would attend, 12 turned up.

Because it was Easter they interposed readings and hymns with a short item on John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace.

Since then two more home groups have been held, the latest of which was attracted an increasing number of Asians and newer Christians.

“We have a number of young people, some of whom are Chinese and Koreans, and they sang, too, since they became familiar with the melodic tunes. Many of the melodies, although lacking beat, are easily remembered,” said Mr. Clayton.

“The newer Christians don’t know the older hymns and they are enjoying learning the doctrine that comes from the hymns. Many older people have fond memories of these hymns, which they sang in childhood with their parents.”

Kee Moh Tan and Annie Tan, who were baptised last year, say they have been really inspired by the hymns.

“Every line and every word invoke a feeling that our Lord is always near,” said Mr. Tan.

A young woman lately arrived from China, who is interested in learning more about Christ, said that although she was not familiar with the melodies she found them easy to follow.

Tom McLaughlin said his love of hymn-singing went back to his childhood days in his homeland of Northern Ireland, which he left more than 40 years ago.

“It was the well-known and loved gospel invitation hymn Just As I Am, by English hymn writer Charlotte Eliot, that brought me to accept Jesus as my personal saviour as a 7-year-old boy at a faith mission weekly gospel service in my home village,” said Mr. McLaughlin.

“My dear old father was a gospel singer and lover of the gentle Irish and Scottish ballads. These very naturally became my choice of songs...”

One older Christian, Lesley, said it was a wonderful idea to have such a home group because the hymns had great meaning for her.

“I was converted at the age of 12 and attended a church where we were wonderfully taught and grounded in the scriptures. Alongside that, these hymns were sung with awe and reverence and not only uplifted the spirit, but taught the fundamentals and foundations of our faith,” she said.

“While I also love many of the new worship songs we sing at church, it is great to devote some time to these wonderful, ageless hymns of a bygone era.”

Mr. Clayton is planning his next home group meeting soon and hopes to see even more people attend as well as other home groups possibly getting involved.

© 2007 ASSIST News Service, used with permission