Vicar receives 'unpleasant' messages over removal of 'Onward Christian Soldiers' hymn

A vicar and his church in Oadby, Leicestershire, have received "unpleasant" messages after they opted to remove the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers" from a Remembrance Sunday service and replaced it with another song.

(REUTERS / Toby Melville)Britain's Prince Charles lays a wreathe at the Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph service in London, Britain, November 12, 2017.

Speaking to the BBC in an interview, Rev. Steve Bailey of St. Peter's Church said he had suggested that "Onward, Christian Soldiers" be replaced with "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" during a Remembrance Sunday service for a change. However, the move drew flak from a lot of people who said the church was just trying to avoid the ire of non-Christians who would be attending the ceremony.

"The church and myself have since received unpleasant communications," said Rev. Bailey. "The choice of hymns and prayers will be made each year to meet the needs of the time."

In addition, Rev. Bailey explained that the decision was made together with the Royal British Legion in Oadby. The replacement hymn is reportedly of Christian origin, and the service remains a Christian one.

However, some members of the social club --- which is a separate entity from the Royal British Legion --- were angered by the church's move. They said Bailey removed the hymn because not all of the attendees of the service were Christian, the Leicester Mercury reported.

The vice-chairman of the social club, Ian Thorpe, acknowledged that the vicar had received "ugly" phone calls and said that was not their intention. He added that they have already agreed to talk about the program for the Centenary service next year.

Thorpe also explained: "It's been done nearly every year in recent memory but he said they're not doing it because not everyone at the service will be Christians - it's not the 'soldiers' bit, it's the 'Christian' bit."

The club's chairman Pete Green had reportedly planned to boycott the Remembrance Sunday service. Some members have also said they would simply lay a wreath, remain outside the church, or sing the controversial song by themselves during the event.