Saturday, August 2, 2008

What Happened To Verse Three...

I was reminded by a fellow minister recently of a question that has long lurked in my brain: "What happened to verse 3?!" Let me explain...

Growing up in Churches of Christ as I did, it was not uncommon to hear the song leader (this was in an era prior to the invention of praise/worship leaders) announce the song we were about to sing ("Turn to number 728-B, that's number 728-B, seven-two-eight-B."), followed by this pronouncement: "We'll sing verses one, two and four."

There it was... occurring on an almost every Sunday (and Wednesday night) basis... a glaring reminder that something was not quite right with verse 3. My brain feverishly pondered what lay behind this regular omission of verse 3.

Did verse 3 contain some heretical sentiment that our lips must never utter?
Was there something in the song leaders' code that only required them to sing three verses of any song and, as a result, was verse 3 being consistently axed?
Perhaps it was felt an unreasonable stretch of the musical stamina of most churches to carry a song through four verses! (But how did one account for the often interminable singing of "Just As I Am"?! That would be number 103, that's number 103, one-zero-three. )

It became clear to me over time that even song book publishers were willing accessories to this crime of eliminating verse 3. This realization dawned on me the day my adolescent eyes were opened to the fact that an asterisk had been placed beside verse 3.

Knowing that an asterisk signaled one should glance around the page for a message in very tiny print, I searched and found these words: "This verse may be omitted due to the fact that we never liked it, and aren't really sure why we printed it in this song book in the first place." (I admit that may be a rough paraphrase of my recollection of what I glanced with my adolescent eyes... but you get the idea.)

Undeniably... there was a vast and wide conspiracy against verse 3.

To this day, I remain puzzled by the level of paranoia generated against verse 3. And I wonder what might have been... if we had, through all these years, been singing verse 3.

Alas, that's a question that can only be pondered, because verse 3 disappeared completely from our collective consciousness with the advent of PowerPoint. Still, I can't help wondering what a world with a little more of verse 3 might have looked like.