Sunday, February 19, 2017

Make Us All the Burden Share

Continuing our series of hymns of social justice, we have today the reintroduction of a text which predates slightly the first "golden age" of such hymns which happened in the early twentieth century, and may or may not have been known to the authors who produced those early hymns. 

This is a prayer for divine guidance that recognizes that we on earth can do the will of God through Christ, who modeled during his life how we should support and help the people around us.  Originally published with six stanzas in Good Will, a Christian journal, its first appearance in a hymnal was in the Christian Social Union Hymn Book (1895), a collection for the social justice organization of the same name.

Reintroducing a classic text such as this one requires a strong, familiar tune that people sing well, in this case the Welsh tune TON-Y-BOTEL (sometimes called EBENEZER).

Jesus Christ, eternal Savior,
Source of life and truth and grace,

Word made flesh, whose birth incarnate
Hallows all our human race,
Thou, our head who, throned in glory,
For thine own dost ever plead,
Fill us with thy love and pity;
Heal our wrongs, and help our need.

Bind us all as one together
In thy church’s sacred fold,
Weak and healthy, poor and wealthy,
Sad and joyful, young and old.
Is there want, or pain, or sorrow?
Make us all the burden share.
Are there spirits crushed and broken?
Teach us how to soothe their care.

Jesus, thou hast lived for others,
So may we for others live;
Freely have thy gifts been granted,
Freely may we learn to give.
Thine the gold and thine the silver,
Thine the wealth of land and sea,
We but stewards of thy bounty,
Held in solemn trust for thee.

Come, O Christ, and reign among us,
Fount of love and strength and peace,
Hush the storm of strife and passion,
Bid its cruel discords cease:
Thou who hopest, thou who willest,
That thy people should be one,
Grant, O grant our prayer’s fruition:
Here on earth thy will be done.

Somerset Lowry, 1893; alt.
Thomas J. Williams, 1890
Somerset Corry Lowry (1855-1932) was born in the Irish town of Dungannon and educated at Cambridge University. Son of a prominent lawyer, he planned to follow in that profession, but changed his mind and was ordained in the Church of England in 1879 and served several parishes, apparently writing about sixty hymn texts along the way (only a handful are documented online).
TON-Y-BOTEL, coincidentally, will reappear here later this week.
Originally presented here on September 14, 2008.

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