Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fill Us With Refining Fire

Choosing one of our Sunday themes during ordinary time we come around again to hymns of the Holy Spirit. They come from many denominations and different musical styles, but most of them contain similar images of wind, fire, and the breath of God. They are often prayers for change and renewal, which I think everyone can sing together, regardless of your own background or circumstances.

Breathe upon us now from heaven,
Fill us with the Holy Ghost;
Promise of the Savior given,
Send anew your Pentecost.

Breathe upon us, breathe upon us,
With your love our hearts inspire.
Breathe upon us, breathe upon us,
O baptize us now with fire.

While the Spirit hovers o’er us,
Open all our hearts, we pray;
To your image, God, restore us,
Witness in our souls today.

Lift us, Spirit, lift us higher,
From our fears and doubts set free;
Fill us with refining fire,
Give us perfect liberty.

R. Kelso Carter, 1891; alt.
Tune: MEDJUGORJE ( with refrain)

Russell Kelso Carter was for a time a Methodist minister, though he later became a physician. He was associated with the Holiness Movement (like fellow hymnwriters Phoebe Palmer, Alma White, and Margaret J. Harris) and also organized and led campmeetings. He wrote both texts and tunes, sometimes together, as in this case, and sometimes separately. His most well-known song is probably Standing on the promises, which is still sung today, but I'd make a case for reconsidering this one as well.

Carter also collaborated on at least three gospel song collections, including Hymns of the Christian Life (1891), where today's song was first published (as the first selection in the book). He contributed 51 texts and 68 tunes to that book, in addition to arranging 26 more tunes from the melodies of others.

Two Years Ago: Oliver Wendell Holmes

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