And then you go to the social area at the back of the church, greet someone standing alone - not a stranger, someone who's been coming on and off for decades - and he informs you, quite firmly, that he didn't know any of the hymns except for the first one and he'd hated them all anyway.
Time was I'd have felt wounded at that moment, for church sometimes leaves you vulnerable to the kind of barbs we don't often get thrown these days. But I've been around a lot of barb-fests, and I merely, mildly even, point out that what he derides as "happy clappy" music didn't form part of my tradition either (Church of Scotland, seduced by singing Byrd and Palestrina, in Latin) and that Mr B never chose happy crappy (sic) music and that this chap should perhaps widen his horizons ... Again, I could go on. I did, a bit - something about singing sentimental verse full of lamentable poetic diction set to dreary tunes - but I won't.
But I do wonder,
Easy. Either a competent musician, on any instrument, who has the gift of inspiring people to sing (and that often comes down to rhythm) - or silence. We sing too many hymns, mostly - and this is especially evident when actually hardly anyone sings anyway. They leave it to someone else. And I'm looking for hymns whose words are theologically meaningful, whose imagery I relate to, which don't ask me to think that God made us high and lowly and so on. I reckon that hymns tend to reflect the folk music of their day. That being the case, we shouldn't object to the odd bit of syncopation here and there. They also tend to reflect the world which informs their words - so we balk these days at singing that all must love the human race "in heathen, Turk or Jew", and some of us at least rejoice in discovering the songs of Christians in other countries, because the world has shrunk and we have access to a far wider song-pool than we did a century ago.
I didn't let all of this fly at the misery in the church; I'm letting go here instead. I didn't even ask him what made it all right for him to girn this way at someone who doesn't actually choose the music but who obviously had enjoyed singing it - or even just at someone who had offered him a friendly greeting. Long ago I made the decision to try to be Pollyanna till I got home - or to keep out of the way of temptation if I felt unduly volatile.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I want to throw something.
*Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem : Horace. Means Remember to keep an even temper in difficult situations.