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S-I-N-G A-L-O-N-G!

 At great risk of sounding like an old Salvo – which, well, I am – I was recently reminded of a Sunday school song I learnt many years ago and which, it seems, is still taking up space in my brain: probably the bit that should be telling me what my wife said to pick up at the supermarket on my way home.


It was this song (and this might scare readers under 40): ‘J-O-Y, J-O-Y, this must surely be, / Jesus first, yourself last and others in between’. You simply repeated that all again and it was sung – amazingly – to the tune of the chorus of ‘Jingle Bells’. Or perhaps the chorus of ‘Jingle Bells’ was sung to the tune of ‘J-O-Y'; I don’t know which came first.


It was a simple spelling lesson – yes, J-O-Y spells ‘joy’ – and also a useful mnemonic for remembering who gets priority in living out our faith.


However, then I recalled another old song, and I started to sense a conspiracy. We used to sing ‘I’m happy today’ but on the second time through, we’d spell out some words.


‘I’m happy today, yes, happy today,/ In Jesus’ love I’m happy today,/ He’s taken all my sins away/ And that’s why I’m happy today./ ‘I’m H-A-P-P-Y, I’m H-A-P-P-Y,/ In J-E-S-U-S I’m H-A-P-P-Y,/ He’s T-A-K-E-N my S-I-Ns away/ And that’s why I’m H-A-P-P-Y.’


Sunday school wasn’t just teaching us about Jesus, it was teaching us how to spell! Why, those sneaky Sunday school teachers; they were making us do school lessons on a non-school-except-for Sunday-school day!


I was reflecting on this deceptive form of teaching when I realised something: 50 years later, I still remember those songs! Hmm, sneaks they might have been, but they were clever sneaks.


And now I’m thinking, if that’s what makes song lyrics memorable, perhaps we should try it more in worship today.


‘I love you, Lord/ For your mercy never fails me/ All my days, I’ve been held in your hands,/ From the moment that I wake up/ Until I lay my head,/ Oh, I will sing of the G-O-O-D-N-E-S-S of G-O-D.’


Hmm, not sure that that’s really working. Let’s try another one. Maybe we’ll go more Army this time. It might work if we use some creative spelling.


‘I want to be a soldier of the cross,/ Bravehearted and T-R-U,/ I want to be a soldier of the cross,/ I do, I do, I do, I D-O-O,/ I want to be a soldier of the cross,/ Telling out the stor-E-E-E,/ Walking with Jesus/ All the way to glor-E-E.’


Well, it’s singable, but only just. Hang on, I know what to do: when in doubt, turn to the Founder’s song.


‘O B-O-U-N-D-L-E-S-S S-A-L-V-A-T-I-O-N...’


Oh, no. Imagine doing seven verses of that! It would take hours. The only saving grace would be the last phrase: ‘4 U and 4 me’.


Perhaps we’ll leave the spelling of song words to Sunday school children. No need to persist with the method when we’ve grown up and learnt how to spel.


– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos









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