Pastor Tim Smith: ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote: ‘The music of the moon sleeps in the plain eggs of the nightingale’

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote: 'The music of the moon sleeps in the plain eggs of the nightingale' - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

During the early weeks of the lockdown, back in April, many people observed how quiet it was with virtually no traffic on the roads.

Pastor Tim Smith from Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay

Pastor Tim Smith from Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay - Credit: Archant

And one of the sounds that benefited by no longer being drowned out by engine noise was that of birdsong.

According to renowned 20th century animal ethologist Dr William Thorpe, the singing and calling of birds can be divided into at least six distinctive groups, from mating calls and warning sounds that alert other birds of the presence of predators, to songs that can threaten a rival or intruder, or calls to reassure chicks in the nest.

Apparently, each bird species also has its own distinctive song by which it can be recognised.

For many people one of the most familiar and attractive birdsongs is that of the nightingale, of which 19th century poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote: 'The music of the moon sleeps in the plain eggs of the nightingale'.

Singing is something that birds and humans have in common, and just as a lot of birdsong takes place in the courtship, mating and breeding season, so the majority of tunes we humans listen to or sing are love songs.

Many couples will have at least one tune that they will call 'our song'.

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For my wife Linda and I, the hit single at the top of the charts the week we got married is the ever-so-romantic Star Trekkin' by The Firm; a catchy tune with the memorable line, 'boldly going forward, 'cause we can't find reverse'. That's the song we regard as uniquely 'ours'!

Certain songs spark special memories. Every time I hear 'Come on Eileen' by Dexys Midnight Runners, I'm transported back to a particularly great summer holiday I enjoyed as a teenager in the early 1980s, whereas listening to The Bluebells' 'Young at Heart' reminds me of the birth of our eldest son Gary.

Singing with others is something many folk have missed in recent months, while church buildings have been shut.

The Bible encourages people of faith to lift their voices together in praise to God. 'Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation' is the invitation at the beginning of Psalm 95.

And although churches can now open again for Sunday worship, singing is sadly still off the agenda for the time being, due to the increased risk it presents of spreading Covid-19.

As I've sat thinking about how we might still include music and songs in our services, I've realised just how important sung worship has been in my life as a believer.

The words of choruses I learnt in Sunday school, such as 'When the road is rough and steep', or 'the wise man built his house upon the rock', have stayed with me in adult life, and I still find the gospel truth they contain helpful to me.

And there are certain Christian hymns and songs that have aided and encouraged me in difficult times.

I recall seven years ago, during the last week of my mum's life, how my dad, my brother and I took turns being at her bedside in hospital, so that she wouldn't be alone, day or night.

In the middle of the last night before mum passed away, while I was driving to the hospital the song playing on the car stereo was called 'Endless Hallelujah' by Matt Redman. It's a song about the Christian hope of eternal life with the Lord Jesus, when a believer's earthly life has run its course.

As I listened to Redman sing 'No more tears, no more shame, no more sin and sorrow ever known again. No more fears, no more pain; we will see You face to face', I cried tears of both joy and grief at the same time.

I was mourning my mum's imminent death, but at the same time giving thanks for the new life with Jesus that she was about to experience.

That short car journey, Matt Redman's song, and the encouraging truth it conveyed, is a memory I'll always treasure.