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Methodist minister sings 748 hymns to raise money for Covid relief efforts in India

by Kelly Valencia
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A Lancashire church minister has sung the entire Methodist hymn book to raise money for an Indian covid relief effort.

Rev Phil Gough, Superintendent Minister of The Chorley and Leyland Methodist Circuit, sung 748 songs in slots of three to four hours a day during a week.

Speaking to Premier, he said the idea came after being made aware of the challenges churches in India are facing to help people suffering with Covid-19.

“We had an event a few weeks ago, looking at our partner churches in the world…we had a new link through a family connected to churches in India. And we were hearing harrowing stories, particularly from northern India, some of the remotest parts on the border with Nepal, where there's very, very little medical assistance for anybody who has covid,” Rev Phil said.

Earlier this year, India suffered a critical shortage of oxygen tanks and ventilators after a huge rise in covid cases. The country currently ranks second in the world in terms of the number of deaths caused by Covid-19.

“Some of the churches there had a vision of having oxygen tanks and ventilation in the church, that people would come to the church to receive medical attention that they couldn't get elsewhere," Rev Phil continued. "And that just sparked a thought in me that that was something I wanted to contribute towards." 

The 53-year-old minister wanted to “use his breath” to raise money and decided to sing, as many people in the UK have been unable to hold gathered worship over the last months.

“I thought about reading scripture, doing a sponsored reading of the New Testament or something like that. But many of us have really, really missed singing over the last 12 to 18 months," he said, "especially when we've been unable to do it in our gathered worship. And so, it felt like an opportunity to invite others through social media to join me in singing through the hymn book.”

The Methodist hymn book, Singing the Faith, is divided into three topical sections, with hymns from the 20th and 21st centuries. Rev Phil said his favourite one to sing is Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.

“Being half Welsh and listening, you know, as I’m singing I’m thinking there’s a Welsh male voice choir around me singing 'Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee';

“But the songbook also has a lot of modern songs in so, indescribable was a great one to see. Just glorying in the wonder of God's creation. And songs that spoke about the breath of God. Breathe in the breath of God, those kinds of songs reminded me why I was doing what I was doing that there are churches in India, that are longing to be able to offer literally the breath of life to people in their community,” Rev Phil said.

Rev Phil broadcasted his singing through Facebook Live with the aim of raising £600, but has so far raised £1,500, enough to pay for two ventilators for a church in northern India.

He concluded: “When we asked the pastors out there in India, they were asking for prayer for resilience…if you can imagine serving your community with very little medical backup and medical support. We were hearing that 1,000s local church pastors in this area of north of India had died with covid. So, there's a need to support local churches out in India in leadership and in their desire to serve their communities.”

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