Hymn Blog – January 19, 2020

Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 19, 2020
Psalm 40; John 1:29-42; I Corinthians 1:1-9

VU 374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre (1982)
New Zealand hymn poet Shirley Murray wrote this text for a Presbyterian Women’s Conference on the theme “Making Space.”  The text urges us to make room in our crowded lives for hope, peace, and true being.  By opening ourselves to the spirit, she states, we will find ample room for the dreaming and caring that are essential to our lives as Christians.  The final line of the first stanza “be at peace, and simply be” reminds me that in a presbytery oversight visit to our congregation some years ago, Nigel Weaver, chair of the visiting team, told us that we were very good at “doing” but not very good at “being”.  I believe this observation still applies to our congregation, so Murray’s text may hold truth for us.  Murray’s texts have appeared in more than 100 collections worldwide and have been translated into several languages. She has been an editor with the New Zealand Hymnbook Trust and received international acclaim for her writing, including being made a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music (2006), a fellow of the Hymn Society (2009), and becoming a Member of the NZ Order of Merit (2001) for services to the community through hymn writing. She is the first citizen to be so honoured. Shirley has been the Erik Routley Fellow (PCUSA) in 1996 and her hymns have been included in the worship of the World Council of Churches’ Assemblies.
The setting, BEACH SPRING, is a pentatonic shape note tune from The Sacred Harp (Philadelphia, 1844) and is attributed to B.F. White.  It is a widely used hymn tune, appearing as the setting for four hymns in Voices United.

VU 684 – Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (1220)
The hymn text is based on an anonymous prayer attributed, probably erroneously, to St. Francis of Assisi.  The earliest known version of the prayer is in French, published in December 1912 in La Clochette (The Little Bell), a devotional magazine.  In 1915 a copy of the prayer was sent to Pope Benedict XV, who had it translated into Italian and published on the front page of l’Osservatore Romano.  The first North American printing was in the Quaker weekly newspaper The Friends’ Intelligencer in January 1927.  The text we sing and the tune, CHANNEL OF PEACE, are by South African native Sebastian Temple, and first appeared in Happy the Man (1967), published by the Franciscan Community in Los Angeles.

MV 220 – Hope Shines as the Solitary Star
Our prayer response is by Catherine MacLean who is minister at St. Paul’s United Church in Edmonton, Alberta. Catherine holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard, a Bachelor of Arts from Dalhousie, and a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching through McCormick Seminary in Chicago. Catherine was one of the authors of A Song of Faith. She is an avid reader and a poet and deeply enjoys connecting the stories of our lives and our faith.
Composer Jan Tissandier has been singing in church choirs since childhood and has enriched her music education with years of lessons in piano, voice, and flute. Studies in spirituality have deepened her interest in the role of music in worship. In addition to leading the choir and playing for services at Ralph Connor Memorial United Church in Camrose, Alberta, Jan offers piano lessons and sings in a women’s a cappella ensemble, In the Pink.

VU 697 – O For a World  (1987)
This text by Miriam Therese Winter is an eschatological vision of Christ’s kindom of justice and peace.  It was originally written for the Presbyterian Women’s Triennial Conference at Purdue University in 1982, whose theme was “Nevertheless . . . the Promise.”  The version here reflects revisions made by the author in 1987 when recorded by the Medical Mission Sisters.  Carl Daw remarks that the text is in essence a hymnic palimpsest (a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain) written on top of Charles Wesley’s “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”.  Winter is Professor of Liturgy, Worship, Spirituality, and Feminist Studies at Hartford Seminary. A Medical Mission Sister, she has been writing and publishing songs and hymns since Vatican II in the 1960’s. Her early recordings with The Medical Mission Sisters were widely popular, bringing a fresh, dynamic musical context to bible stories and simple songs of faith. Many of her later texts bring feminist theological perspectives to our hymnody, in beautiful poetry and melody. “Mother and God” (VU 280) and “Wellspring of Wisdom” (VU287) are two of her hymns in Voices United which we have frequently used at TSP.  In 2013 she was named a Companion of The Centre for Christian Studies, the United Church diaconal theological training school.
The tune, AZMON, is German in origin, and was collected by American Lowell Mason in 1837.  It is often associated with Charles Wesley’s “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

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