The July 2016 JW broadcast (found at http://www.jw.org) features a touching story about a group of Russians who, during the cold war, recorded a “song” (not a hymn, for that’s a pagan term from Christiandom) and a greeting to be played at the international convention at Yankee stadium in New York. The recording was smuggled out of Russia, through Poland, and successfully to the US to be played at the convention. Fast forward to present day, when some of the “chorus” members (not a choir, for that would be a pagan word from Christiandom) gathered to hear the recording and reminisce. It’s difficult to not be moved as they tear up while listening to the recording.
Yes, it is touching, and it should be, even for those of us who consider the Watchtower and its governing bully to be the modern-day Pharisees. Those dear people lived at the time under repression, from which they have been set free, so they are rightly emotional, and I am unashamedly empathetic, tearing up along with them.
But now I must comment on what they’re apparently singing. There’s only a couple of bars played, but it sounds familiar to me. It sounds like the hymn “Jesus Shall Reign Where’ere the Son.” Am I right? Please give me your feedback in the comments–others more familiar with hymns will be able to identify it more accurately, I’m sure. Were hymns allowed and/or used by Jehovah’s Witnesses back in the 1950’s? Especially such a Christ-centered hymn?
Meanwhile, I find myself tearing up along with the now-senior-adults who were a part of that “chorus.” I’m tearing up partly because of their emotion, but also because they were set free from one oppressive regime only to submit themselves to another. And they’re missing out on the powerfully sweet relationship with Jesus that they were singing about all those years ago. If I’m correctly identifying the hymn, the words are:
1 Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
does its successive journeys run,
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.
2 To him shall endless prayer be made,
and praises throng to crown his head.
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
with every morning sacrifice.
3 People and realms of every tongue
dwell on his love with sweetest song,
and infant voices shall proclaim
their early blessings on his name.
4 Blessings abound where’er he reigns:
the prisoners leap to lose their chains,
the weary find eternal rest,
and all who suffer want are blest.
5 Let every creature rise and bring
the highest honors to our King,
angels descend with songs again,
and earth repeat the loud amen.
(Quoted from http://www.hymnary.org)