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‘Ban a hymn’ auction raises funds and a few hackles

04 September 2015

Banning unpopular hymns: the Revd Meg Barnhouse

Banning unpopular hymns: the Revd Meg Barnhouse

"WE ARE never weary singing our eternal song," begins one of Fanny Crosby’s hymns. But it was the Revd Meg Barnhouse’s realisation that some members of her congregation were, in fact, weary of some of their songs of praise which prompted her to devise a fundraising scheme with a difference.

As the senior minister at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, in Texas, Ms Barnhouse oversees an annual auction to raise funds for the church budget.

Last spring, Item 61 offered bidders the opportunity to "ban a hymn for a year". The form advised participants to name the hymn, "so if someone loves that hymn they may outbid you and retire their least favourite hymn instead".

"I knew that this particular congregation would take it in good spirit," she said on Tuesday. "They know me and trust my good will and intentions."

Since the auction, Ms Barnhouse has seen an "explosion" of feedback.

"Most people were saying ‘What a brilliant fund-raising idea!’" she said. "Others said that they would rather pick a favourite hymn. Banning one is so much more fun. I’ve had some really pretty cross responses from other ministers who say: ‘I think that it is so negative; I would never do that.’ It’s fine. We enjoy being a little bit wicked."

This year, the winning bid — $125 — secured a year-long sabbatical for "Bring many names". Ms Barnhouse’s own choice would have been "We live, we die, we laugh, we cry". She plans to run the auction again next year: "There are some really awful ones," she said.


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