The Curious Case of the Forgotten Third Verse

August 18, 2014 in Values Storying by

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Forgotten Third Verse

Photo Credit: stareja via photopin cc

This is the curious case of the forgotten third verse. See it there? What happened to it?

The Curious Case of the Forgotten Third Verse

I thought maybe it was a small church thing. Only the big churches had the capacity to sing all four verses of any given hymn. That’s why we were so often instructed to “stand and sing the first, second, and fourth verses” of most of the four-verse hymns. What about verse three?

Maybe it was a Methodist thing. Maybe the Baptists and Presbyterians and Pentecostals sang every verse, and I just hadn’t gotten the memo as a kid. Did they have have the market cornered, so to speak, on the forgotten third verses?

Maybe it was a country church thing. Did the more intellectual city folk sing them all?

I’m sure you grew up with the same question about the mystery of the forgotten third verse, didn’t you? I’m sure you did.

A Universal Mystery

I moved away from home to attend college and have attended churches of various sizes, denominations, and locations since that time. Most of the churches I have had occasion to visit no longer use hymnals, and the forgotten third verses have been subsequently handed off to the cold case committees or is being held up in the ominous committee on committees. The questions still linger, though.

  • Did the hymn writers focus on strong opening and closing verses of their songs. Was there enough of the good stuff left for verse two but not so much for verse three?
  • Was verse three where they stuck the half-rhymes rhyming words that didn’t really rhyme like wander and grandeur)? Speaking of which, has anybody else ever noticed that the children’s blessing for meals doesn’t rhyme, either?

God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our…

(Hmm, what could we put here? How about food–it looks like it should rhyme. Maybe nobody’ll notice. Shoulda stuck it in verse three of the prayer, if you ask me.)

  • Was the forgotten third verse where too many words that had been awkwardly shortened (giv’n, forgiv’n) or lengthened (Onward Christian sol-dier-er-er-ers, bless-ed) hidden?

Perhaps You Can Help

Maybe your church sings hymns today or you grew up singing them. Check out the quiz below for 10 third verses from some of the most well-known Christian hymns of all time. See how many you can identify. Share your scores in the comments along with any other verse threes you want to share. Good luck and happy testing. And, please, no wagering.

On a serious note, many of the old hymns have theologically rich lyrics that have been formative for believers across the generations. Even the forgotten verse three of many of those hymns. Kind of a musical values storying, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading.

For the next generation,
Al Ainsworth