Jerusalem, a hymn or not?

Wikipedia describes a hymn like so:

A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word hymn derives from Greek ὕμνος (hymnos), “a song of praise”.

In recent years the Church of England has appeared divided over the suitability of Jerusalem for religious occasions, mainly on account of the fact that it is not – in the view of many people – a proper hymn. However, as reported in today’s press (see the Telegraph and Mail), the Church of England have now come down in favour of the singing Jerusalem at weddings, a decision that will be a relief to a great many couples given that Jerusalem is the fifth most popular choice of for CofE weddings. The following is taken from the Church of England website:

Sung in churches, used by various organisations, and having been selected by the England Commonwealth Games team for their ‘victory anthem’, the hymn Jerusalem is liked by many but not all.

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, said: “The runaway success of the planner shows the popularity of liturgy and hymns and what can happen when planning a service is made user friendly. These hymns, all firmly fixed in our hymn books, are much loved and have a rightful place in Church of England worship and in the online ceremony planner.”

A factsheet by the Revd Peter Moger, National Worship Development Officer, called Singing Jerusalem at Weddings, has also been released, as a guide for clergy. It highlights various ways to build on the hymn’s enduring popularity with churchgoers, various organisations and sports fans to “make a marriage special” and “forge a positive and lasting relationship with wedding couples”.

Whether this is a victory for common sense or a case of the Church bowing to popular and commercial demand is unclear. It’s most probably a bit of both. And frankly, who cares?

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I was at the Australia game at Upton Park and we held up the Flag of St George in the Bobby Moore Stand and that made me feel proud. But the British national anthem being played. Not English, but British.

— Billy Bragg

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