Palm-Passion Sunday – Paul’s Hymn Blog

Palm-Passion Sunday – Paul’s Hymn Blog

Sunday, March 25 2018

Palm-Passion Sunday Mark 14:1-15:47

by Paul Stott


VU 126 – Ride On, Ride On, the Time Is Right (1988)

Text and tune are by John Bell, from Enemy of Apathy (1988), the second volume of Wild Goose Songs, published by the Iona Community. With stark, powerful imagery, Bell forces us to confront the reality behind the celebration of the palms and to reflect on how this reality continues to be with us today. Bell is a frequent visitor to Canada, leading workshops at churches and seminaries. His books The Singing Thing (2000) and The Singing Thing too (2007) share insights culled from over 20 years in which he and his colleagues in the Wild Goose Resource and Worship Groups have taught new songs in venues as diverse as old people’s homes with half a dozen hearing-aid users to the Greenbelt Festival with over 10,000 gathered for worship. John has a passion for congregational song.

VU 128 – Sanna, Sannanina (trad)

This example of South African service music comes to us from from Story Song (1993), a British volume of contemporary religious music. The text is a Swahili version of “Hosanna.”
A Cheering, Chanting, Dizzy Crowd (1985)
This text by Tom Troeger moves the liturgy from the exultation of a palm procession to contemplation of the passion to come. The transition in the third stanza from the celebration of the palm procession is enhanced by the alliteration in the first line “When day dimmed down to deepening dark.” Troeger is Professor of Christian communication at the Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1970 and in the Episcopal Church in 1999, he is dually aligned with both traditions. He is a prolific author, respected preacher, and accomplished flautist.
The setting, CHRISTIAN LOVE is by Paul Benoit (1893-1979), who was a priest at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maurice and St. Maur, at Clervaux in Luxembourg. It was composed at the request of Omer Westendorf to set his text “Where Charity and Love Prevail.”

VU 950 – Stay With Me, Remain Here with Me (1982)

This Taizé text, our prayer response, was originally sung in German, but as with many Taizé chants, was soon translated into other languages, including English. The text is based on the request of Christ to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, found in Mark 14:34, 38 reminding us of an ongoing call to be alert and faithful.

VU 146 – When Jesus Wept (1770)

Although Voices United attributes the text as well as the tune to William Billings, more recent research identifies Perez Morton (1751-1837) as the author. It was first published in Billings’ The New England Psalm Singer (Boston, 1770). “Jesus Wept” John 11:35 KJV is the shortest verse in the new Testament. John 11:38 KJV mentions “groaning.” The last two lines of the text may relate more closely to Luke 19:41-44, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. In his biographical sketch of Billings, Carl Daw states

Billings (October 7, 1746–September 26, 1800) was born and died in Boston, which he left only in order to teach singing schools in nearby towns. His formal education was limited, but he read and studied widely on his own. His basic musical education came from the singing schools common throughout New England during the latter half of the 18th century. He added to his musical knowledge by studying published psalmody collections, such as William Tans’ur’s The Royal Melody Compleat (London, 1755) and Aaron Williams’s The Universal Psalmodist (London, 1762). Having been apprenticed to a tanner, Billings continued in that trade and operated a tannery for a number of years, but by 1769 he was also leading singing schools in Boston and the surrounding towns. During the 1760s he began composing hymn tunes and anthems following examples he found in the tune books of British psalmodists, but his abilities soon
allowed him to surpass his models. He became the informal leader of a large group of largely self-taught New England composers who dominated American sacred music between about 1780 and 1810. During the 1770s and early 1780s Billings was financially successful, but his fortunes declined sharply, so that from the late 1780s until his death he lived in near poverty.

The tune, WHEN JESUS WEPT, may sound strange to our modern ears, but was less strange in late eighteenth century America, where such disjunct and angular tunes were more common.  Notable in this four part canon is the extreme range of an octave and a fourth in the modal melody.

On the Ground in Palestine, March 22, 2018

On the Ground in Palestine, March 22, 2018

With Palm Sunday this weekend, many Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank are still waiting to hear if they will obtain permits from the Israeli military to go to Jerusalem for the Palm Sunday procession, for celebrations and worship.


Haaretz reports, “For the first time, the Knesset Ethics Committee has decided to bar an MK from traveling abroad on a trip subsidized by an organization that supports a boycott of Israel. Knesset member Yousef Jabareen of the predominantly Arab Joint List party was informed on Tuesday (March 13) by committee chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) that the committee had decided to refuse his request to fly abroad for a series of lectures in April to be funded by Jewish Voice for Peace. The group appears on a Strategic Affairs Ministry list of groups supporting BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.”


From the Jerusalem Post: “Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is a war crime, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein charged in a report he issued last week. ‘The establishment and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel, including the legal and administrative measures that it has taken to provide socioeconomic incentives, security, infrastructure and social services to citizens of Israel residing in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, amount to the transfer by Israel of its population into the Occupied Palestinian Territory,’ al-Hussein, who is a Jordanian prince, said.”


It’s happening right now, every day: Israel is trying to displace thousands of Palestinians who live in about 200 farming-shepherding communities throughout Area C of the West Bank. Dozens of these communities face imminent expulsion, and others are subject to various forms of abuse, violence and dispossession.

Now is the time to act. Get your friends to take action against the transfer.
Forward this e-mail or share this link:

 From the Middle East Working Group
Fifth Sunday in Lent – Paul’s Hymn Blog

Fifth Sunday in Lent – Paul’s Hymn Blog

Sunday, March 18 2018

Psalm 51; John 12:20-33

by Paul Stott


MV 162 – Christ within Us Hidden (2005)

This hymn explores a number of images of encounter with Christ. Author Curtis Tufts grew up in Calgary Alberta, and is a life-long member of the United Church of Canada. After first dropping out of confirmation class, he re-entered the church through a lively Hi-C youth ministry, and was a candidate for ordained ministry by the ripe age of 18. He studied at the University of Calgary and St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon, was ordained in 1981 and has ministered in Peace River AB, Maymont SK, Calgary AB, Saltcoats SK, and Spruce Grove AB. Frustrated with the words available in the hymn books of the day, he began writing new hymn lyrics to familiar tunes in 1985.

The text is set to ALEXANDER, composed by Sid Woolfrey, a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland, with a B.A. and B.Ed. in Psychology and English. Later, through studies in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and St. Pierre, he specialized in French. He has studied music at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. A church organist since the age of 12, he has directed musical theatre for elementary and junior high school students, has many years of experience directing community and church choirs, and for 30 years was church organist and choir director for the Herring Neck Pastoral Charge in Newfoundland. Throughout that time, he conducted several choir workshops for all ages, focusing on the ministry of music in worship and the melding of music and liturgy. Sid also served as a member of the More Voices Development Team. He believes music is a language accessible and meaningful to all in our congregations.

MV 125 – When a Grain of Wheat (copyright 1981)

This lovely text is based on an image found in our gospel text for the day. Author Toyohiko Kagawa was born in 1888 in Kobe, Japan. Orphaned early, he lived first with his widowed stepmother and then with an uncle. He enrolled in a Bible class in order to learn English, and in his teens he became a Christian and was disowned by his family. In his late teens, he attended Presbyterian College in Tokyo for three years. He decided that he had a vocation to help the poor, and that in order to do so effectively he must live as one of them. Accordingly, from 1910 to 1924 he lived for all but two years in a shed six feet square (about 180 cm) in the slums of Kobe. In 1912 he unionized the shipyard workers. He spent two years (1914-1916) at Princeton studying techniques for the relief of poverty. In 1918 and 1921 he organized unions among factory workers and among farmers. He worked for universal male suffrage (granted in 1925) and for laws more favorable to trade unions. In 1923 he was asked to supervise social work in Tokyo. His writings began to attract favorable notice from the Japanese government and abroad. He established credit unions, schools, hospitals, and churches, and wrote and spoke extensively on the application of Christian principles to the ordering of society. He founded the Anti-War League, and in 1940 was arrested after publicly apologizing to China for the Japanese invasion of that country. In the summer of 1941 he visited the United States in an attempt to avert war between Japan and the US. After the war, despite failing health, he devoted himself to the reconciliation of democratic ideals and procedures with traditional Japanese culture. He died in Tokyo 23 April 1960. The setting is by Ushio Takahashi and the English translation of the text by Frank Y. Ohtomo.

VU 183 – We Meet You, O Christ (1966)

Prolific hymn poet Fred Kaan wrote this text for a television program in the BBC series Seeing and Believing in1966. The program idea came from a photograph of an apple tree growing in the ruins of a bombed-out Plymouth church. The text stresses the humanity of Christ, the suffering servant, with a strong message of resurrection in the final verse.

The tune, LIFE, is by Peter D. Smith, first appearing in his 1969 collection Faith, Folk and Festivity.


VU 948 – O God, Hear My Prayer (1982)

Our prayer response comes to us from Jacques Berthier, organist and composer who arranged much of the service music for the Taizé community in France.


VU 147 – What Wondrous Love is This (ca. 1811)

This American folk hymn circulated in the oral tradition and was first published in two words- only hymnals in 1811 in slightly different versions, one of six stanzas and one of seven. The four stanzas that we sing are found in both versions with minor variations. Carl Daw states “It is possible to think of this text as a 19th-century Christianized version of the opening of Psalm 103, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul.’ Here the thanksgiving is primarily directed to Christ, who is perceived in terms of the kenosis theology of Philippians 2:5-11. . . The fourth stanza is a wonderful affirmation that the heightened existence of the life to come will require enhanced communication: no more speech, only song.”

The hexatonic tune was originally published in the appendix of William Walter’s shape note collection The Southern Harmony (Philadelphia, 1840). The composer was James Christopher of Spartanburg S.C.