My memories of WCG are intertwined with the purple hymnal. It was the official hymn book when I first attended on the Feast of Trumpets in 1975 (at a forgotten rural hall a few kilometres out of Hamilton), and was still a solid fixture at the last service I attended (at the Epsom Girls Grammar venue in Auckland), years later. Even now those Dwight Armstrong hymns pop back into memory at unexpected moments - especially, for some reason, on long road trips.
But before purple there was gray, and by the miracle of PDF files we can now all peruse the hymnal that reigned in the Empire prior to 1974. (This is perhaps the 1958 edition, updated after the name change from Radio Church of God in 1966, though that's just a guess on my part as the PDF files carry no copyright information. Can anyone clarify?)
You may be as surprised as I was at what the brethren were singing way back then. Of course there are lots of Dwight Armstrong's earlier tunes, though many carry different titles. But how about these weeds in the garden of the Eternal:
- Standing On The Promises
- Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus
- I Would Be True
- Open My Eyes, That I May See
- No Night There
- Safely Thro' Another Week*
- Just When I Need Him Most
- Jesus Calls Us, O'er The Tumult
- With Happy Voices Singing
- Blessed Assurance
- It Is Well With My Soul*
- I Need Thee Every Hour
- I Love To Tell The Story
- Sweet Hour Of Prayer
- What A Friend We Have In Jesus
- In The Garden
- Count Your Blessings*
- Tell Me The Old, Old Story
- Day Is Dying In The West
- Blest Be The Tie That Binds
All of these were "purged in purple," and it seems that the WCG took a further turn to the sectarian (at least musically) in the process. (You have to wonder how Onward Christian Soldiers managed to survive the cull of 74.) Would current PCG, RCG or LCG members feel comfortable with these pre-purple "Protestant" songs? I found just browsing through the pages brought on, as you'll see if you click the links above, a definite Pat Boone moment- very scary! - surely the Old Rugged Cross would be only a few pages away... (it wasn't.)
In 1993 the "reformed" WCG published their new hymnal, which reintroduced a few of these titles (the ones with an asterisk), but the rest continue to disappear out of living memory.
You can download your own copy of the gray hymnal here.
Addendum: I keep looking at the way the color/colour grey/gray is spelled in the above item, and brethren it just ain't right! Everyone in New Zealand familiar with Footrot Flats knows it's the Grey Ghost, not the Gray Ghost. The problem is compounded by the fact that, in deference to the number of AW readers coming from General Washington's rebel colonies, I usually adopt US spelling. But, without wanting to labour/labor the point, here's the best discussion on this weighty issue I've come across.
Whew! Glad to have that off my chest.