Friday, July 4, 2008

Thy Paths Our Chosen Way

God of creation, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
Our grateful songs before thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
Through every land by thee our lot is cast;
Be thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from griefs that seem immense,
Be thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thine inspiration in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh thy people on their weary way,
Lead us to heaven's never-ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever thine.

Daniel Crane Roberts, 1876; alt.
George W. Warren, 1892

This hymn was written for the U.S. Centennial celebrations in Brandon, Vermont, but sung to a different tune. Roberts later submitted it to the committee that was compiling the Episcopal hymnal of 1892. George Warren then chose the text for a celebration of the centennial of the Constitution and wrote his tune for it.

It's been slightly rewritten, which admittedly takes the national elements out of it, but remember that we were adapting it for the use of an international denomination. Inclusivity means everyone, not just those of us in the U.S. There's always a debate about the appropriateness of patriotic songs and hymns in worship; I'm wary of them, though I know they are important for many people.

Anyway, happy Fourth to my U.S. readers, and to those outside the country, here's a hymn of praise you can use too.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

Not only the patriotism but also the patriarchalism has been written out of your revision, which is fine with me. I'm not sure whether I like your "God of creation" incipit better than the more widespread "God of the ages" (one hymnal says "God of all ages", which maketh the Lord to sound like an alcohol-free nightclub unto my mind!) but I can certainly see reasons to do something about those fathers of ours; and "forebears" doesn't work, either, especially for those who are conscious of forebears who worshipped other Gods...

As for patriotic songs, I say bring 'em on, but noy just ours. Sing, for example, the English version of the Fiji national anthem, , which is sung to the rousing gospel-hymn tune DWELLING IN BEULAH LAND. The Fijian-language text, while no less patriotic, is more didactic and less religious; stick with the English or Esperanto in church ;-).

Leland aka Haruo

Dorothy said...

I've always thought it rather odd to have those patriotic songs in our hymnals. But I've never attended a church that used them in worship anyway.

C.W.S. said...

I hadn't seen them used much either, but this year we had a special late afternoon service on the eve of Memorial Day. Our church has a historic graveyard, with veterans dating back as far as the American Revolution, and the service was in recognition of those veterans, as well as those of other wars up to the present. In that setting I didn't find America the beautiful so out of place. And I admit that I do like an organist who plays the Charles Ives Variations on America as a postlude this weekend. Not sure if it will happen.

I think that "God of creation" fits better with the starry band and the shining worlds and all than "God of the ages." But I may just conflating it in my head with the Addison/Haydn hymn (see March 31 entry).

Leland Bryant Ross said...

The appropriateness of "America the Beautiful" seems to me contingent upon the mood of the verb "shed". If "God shed his grace on thee" is subjunctive, volitive, or whatever then it's a prayer for God to do so and no less appropriate than the inclusion of our national leaders in a litany of those for whom we pray God's guidance; but if it is indicative (past tense, else it would need a -s) then it's effrontery.

Leland aka Haruo