The horrific earthquakes in Haiti have been at the forefront of world news, as they should be. This article from the New York Times, which you may have seen, recounts a story from the first night, when survivors gathered in the streets where it was relatively safer, and spontaneously began singing hymns. This was not surprising; hymns have always brought comfort in perilous times, and can be shared easily across various social barriers.
You may not have seen this response to the disaster. Presbyterian minister and hymnwriter Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has written a hymn, announced yesterday by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and made available to be downloaded, with the suggestion that it be sung in their member churches this Sunday. Its final stanza concludes:
And may we see, in others’ pain,
The cross we’re called to bear;
Send out your church in Jesus’ name
To pray, to serve, to share.
More information on Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, including links to several of her hymns, is available here. She has written hymn texts in response to other tragedies; probably the two most familiar were for September 11, 2001 (she wrote it that afternoon), and after the Indian Ocean tsunami in December, 2004.
In the past, it would have been more local events that inspired the response of an immediate hymn, and the text may not have been widely known or used beyond that locality. But our modern mass media helps to distribute something like this in ways that were unimagined a hundred years ago.
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