Sunday, November 27, 2011

When Right Shall Triumph Over Wrong

It's a new beginning as we come 'round again to the opening of the church year and the First Sunday in Advent, a time of preparation for the coming Christmas season (four weeks to go!). As usual, we will not see any Christmas carols here until the season of Advent is over. It's our fourth Advent here at CWS, and we have not yet run out of material for the season.

On this first Sunday you may have noticed that the lessons and hymns in your church frequently refer not only to the prophesied birth of a Savior, but also to the Second Coming of Jesus, linking us to both the past and the future.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.

Not as of old, a little child,
To bear, and fight, and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun,
That lights that morning sky.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And earth’s long night is past;—
O, haste the rising of that morn,
That day that e'er shall last.

And let the endless bliss begin,
By weary saints foretold,
When right shall triumph over wrong,
And truth shall be extolled.

The King shall come when morning dawns,

And light and beauty brings;
Hail. Christ the Word! Thy people pray.
Come quickly, King of kings!

John Brownlie, 1907; alt.
Tune: ST. STEPHEN (C.M.)
William Jones, 1789

In many hymnals, this text is said to be originally from the Greek, and translated by John Brownlie, a Scottish Presbyterian. It was first published in his Hymns from the East (1907), a collection of translations. However, no Greek original has ever been identified, and some more modern sources believe that Brownlie wrote the text himself, perhaps using a concept from an older text.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Feast of All Souls

In some traditions, today is celebrated as All Souls Day, the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, or the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Prayers are offered in remembrance of those who have died.  While it is a separate occasion from All Saints' Day, the two days' proximity on the calendar has blurred their differences in the minds of many.  It's usually the celebration of All Saints that is transferred to the Sunday before or after.

My own church has an annual weekday service for All Souls, where a small choir sings portions of the plainsong chant service Missa pro defunctis and the names of the departed loved ones of the congregation are read.  This hymn is also usually a part of the service.

Jesus, Son of Mary, Fount of life alone, 
Here we hail thee present on thine altar throne. 
Humbly we adore thee, Lord of endless might, 
In the mystic symbols veiled from earthly sight. 

Think, dear Christ, in mercy on the souls of those
Who, in faith gone from us, now in death repose.
Here ’mid stress and conflict toils can never cease;
There, the warfare ended, bid them rest in peace.
Rest eternal grant unto them, after weary fight;
Shed on them the radiance of thy heavenly light.
Lead them onward, upward, to the holy place,
Where thy saints made perfect gaze upon thy face. 

Edmund S. Palmer, 1906; alt. 
Plainsong Mode V, 13th cent.

Anglican priest Edmund Stuart Palmer was for several years a missionary in Zanzibar.  He originally wrote this text in Swahili (Yesu, Bin Mariamu) and it was published in a hymnal for the Diocese of Zamzibar.  After returning to England, he translated it into English.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Walter Russell Bowie

Walter Russell Bowie was born today in 1882 in Richmond, Virginia.  He was educated at Harvard University (where he co-edited the Harvard Crimson newspaper with Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and the Virginia Theological Seminary.  In 1909 he was ordained in the Episcopal Church.

Following two years at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood, VA, he became the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, where he had been baptized in 1883.  During World War I he took a leave of absence from that church to serve as a Red Cross hospital chaplain in France, then returned to Richmond until 1923, when he went to Grace Church in New York City.  After sixteen years at Grace he served as Professor of Practical Theology and later Dean of Students at Union Theological Seminary.

Bowie was a renowned preacher who is still referenced in most histories of preaching.  A series of his sermons from 1935 at the Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale University was published as The Renewing Gospel, only one in a long series of books he published in his lifetime.  He was also on the editorial committee for the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

He was a strong proponent of the social gospel, which applies Christian ethics to the problems of the world. The first of his hymn texts to receive wide publication is still one of the great social gospel hymns of the twentieth centtury: O holy city, seen of John, which was written at the request of Henry Sloan Coffin for inclusion in Hymns of the Kingdom of God (1910). Coffin and his co-editor, Ambrose White Vernon, were looking for texts that would demonstrate that signs of the reign of God could be brought forth here on earth, and were not just something to be hoped for in the life to come.

Bowie naturally supported many other social causes and was active in promoting them. In the 1920s he joined the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, which opposed the racist immugration laws that were being passed at that time. This was not a new cause for him, as this hymn from 1913 shows.  Since immigration is still a prominent topic in our national discussion it seems appropriate for today.

God of the nations, who from dawn of days,
Hast led thy people in their widening ways, 
Through whose deep purpose seeking thousands stand
Here in the borders of our promised land.

Thine ancient might rebuked the Pharaoh’s boast.
Thou wast the shield for Israel’s marching host,
And, all the ages through, past crumbling throne
And broken fetter, thou hast brought thine own.

Thy hand has led across the hungry sea
The eager peoples flocking to be free,
And, from the lands of earth, thy silent sway
Fashions the nation of the broadening day. 

Then, for thy grace to grow in unity, 
For hearts aflame to serve thus cause for thee, 
For faith, and will to win what faith shall see, 
God of thy people, hear our cry to thee. 

Walter Russell Bowie, 1913; alt. 
John T. Grimley, 1887 

Bowie would have been familiar with The New Colossus, the famous poem by Emma Lazarus that was written for the Statue of Liberty; this hymn follows a similar theme.

There is not a great number of hymn texts by Walter Russell Bowie, but they surely still .do merit our consideration.  I also like this prayer he wrote for a united world made stronger by the gifts of God.

O God, out of all the world you let us find one another and learn together the meaning of love.  Let us never fail to hold love precious.  Let the flame of it never waver or grow dim, but burn in our hearts as an unwavering devotion and shine through our eyes in gentleness and understanding. Teach us to remember the little courtesies, to be swift to speak the grateful and happy word, to believe rejoicingly in each other’s best, and to face all life bravely because we face it with united heart….Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

The secular holiday we celebrate today in the US has no specific religious counterpart, but it still may have been commemorated in some way in your own worship service yesterday.

The Episcopal Church has a collect (opening prayer) for the day in the Book of Common Prayer which begins Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives. A broader concept of labor which is linked to the common good of all has been a focus of many churches over the past century or so.

Jesus, thou divine Companion,
By thy lowly human birth
Thou hast come to join the workers,
Burden bearers of the earth.
Thou, the carpenter of Naz'reth,
Toiling for thy daily food,
By thy patience and thy courage,
Thou hast taught us toil is good.

All who tread the path of labor
Follow where thy feet have trod;
May we work for good of others,
Do the holy will of God.
Thou, the peace that passeth knowledge,
Dwellest in the daily strife;
Thou, the bread of heaven, broken
In the sacrament of life.

Every task, however simple,
Sets the soul that does it free;
Every deed of love and kindness
Done to each is done to thee.
Jesus, thou divine Companion,
Help us all to do our best;
Bless in our daily labor,
Lead us to our Sabbath rest.

Henry Van Dyke, 1909; alt.
The Christian Lyre, 1830

The Macalester Plymouth United Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, has for many years sponsored searches for new, contemporary hymn texts on social justice topics. Their 2010 contest sought texts for use on Labor Day (or at least, the day before). The winning text (God, bless the work your people do) was submitted by the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles, who has a blog where you can read his new hymn for the day.

Three Years Ago: Amy Beach

Two Years Ago: Amy Beach

One Year Ago: Thy grace impart! in time to be

Sunday, August 28, 2011

William Hiley Bathurst

William Hiley Bathurst, born today in 1796, was ordained in the Church of England in 1819 following his graduation from Oxford, and served as the rector of a Yorkshire church for thirty-two years.

He was a fairly prolific hymnwriter, though not many of his texts are known today. In 1831 he published Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Use, which collected more than three hundred of his hymns and psalm paraphrases (only 18 texts in the book, all psalm paraphrases, are not by Bathurst).

He left the Anglican Church and retired from his parish in 1852 because he had developed doubts about the rites of the church as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer for baptism and burial.

O for that flame of living fire,
Which shone so bright in saints of old!
Which bade their souls to heav’n aspire,
Calm in distress, in danger bold.

Grant us that Spirit, God, which dwelt
In Abram’s breast, and sealed him thine,
Which made Paul’s heart with sorrow melt,
And glow with energy divine.

That Spirit which eternally,
Proclaimed thy love, and taught thy law,
Led to Christ's tomb those women three
And changed their sorrow into awe.

Is not thy grace as mighty now
As when Elijah felt its power;
When glory beamed from Moses’ brow,
Or Job endured the trying hour?

When Miriam, faithful unto death,
Led Israel's children through the wild,
Or Sarah and Elizabeth
Received a long-awaited child?

Remember, God, the ancient days;
Renew thy work; thy grace restore;
As still today our hearts we raise,
On us thy Holy Spirit pour.

William Hiley Bathurst, 1831; adapt. C.W.S. 1993
Pensum Sacrum, 1648;
harm. J.S. Bach, 18th cent.

As you probably noticed, this text is not exactly as Bathurst wrote it. Like most of the hymns we know which talk about people from the Bible, his text included only men. (There were older hymns written about the women of the Scriptures, as we have seen here and here, among others, but these texts have not survived in modern hymnals.) My revision replaced Isaiah and David in stanza three and added the new stanza five, reminding us that God's Spirit was poured on several women as well.

Two Years Ago: Ira David Sankey

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Tempests As They Blow

It's been raining here for the last few hours, with much more predicted to come overnight and into tomorrow. Hurricane Irene has already caused death and destruction with more to come, probably, as it approaches New York City. Many churches in the Northeast have cancelled services tomorrow as the storm is predicted to be at its height during the morning hours, so don't forget to pray for those affected as you worship tomorrow in other places.

Looking around the internet today I came upon
this blog post from several years ago by the Reverend Scott Wells, a Christian Universalist minister who writes at Boy in the Bands. I had been thinking about Eternal Father, strong to save but it wasn't exactly what I wanted. This, too, isn't quite what we might sing today but it has some interesting ideas (I especially like the final stanza). Given that the East Coast felt an earthquake this week too (small though it was), the first line of the second stanza jumped out at me too.

Amid surrounding gloom and waste,
From nature’s face we flee;
And in our fear and wonder haste,
O nature’s Life, to thee!
Thy ways are in the mighty deep;
In tempests as they blow;
In floods that o’er our treasures sweep;
In lightning and the snow.

Though earth upon its axis reels,
And heaven is veiled in wrath;
Not one of nature’s milling wheels
Breaks its appointed path;
Fixed in thy grasp, the sources meet
Of beauty and of awe;
In storm or calm, all pulses beat
True to the central Law.

Thou art that Law, whose will be done,
In seeming wreck or blight,
Sends the calm planets round the sun,
And pours the moon’s soft light.
We trust thy love; thou best dost know
The universal peace;
How long the stormy force should blow,
And when the flood shall cease.

And though our path around some form
Of mystery ever lies,
And life is like the calm and storm
That checker earth and skies
Through all its mingling joy and dread,
Permit us, Holy One,
By faith to see the golden thread
Of thy great purpose done.

Edwin Hubble Chapin, 1871
Thomas Tallis, 16th cent.

Universalist minister Edwin Hubble Chapin was one of the editors of Hymns of Christian Devotion (1871), where some of his other hymn texts appeared with this one.

Two Years Ago: Thomas Gallaudet

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flora Hamilton Cassel

Today is the birthday of composer and songwriter Flora Hamilton Cassel (August 21, 1852 - November 17, 1911). She was raised in the Baptist church in Illinois (where her father was a minister) and learned to play the piano at a young age.

In 1873 she graduated from the Maplewood Institure in Pittsfield, MA (now a collection of
condo-miniums), where she had studied music, including piano and composition. She returned to Illinois and found a teaching position at Shurtleff College, where she later met and married her husband, Elijah Taylor Cassel.

The Cassels collaborated on several songs for Sunday School children, he writing the words and she the music. Later, Flora would go on to write
song texts of her own. This song was written by the duo for the first convention of the Baptist Young People's Union in 1894.

From over hill and plain there comes the signal strain,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
Its music rolls along, the hills take up the song,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

“On to victory! On to victory!”
Cries our great commander, “On!”
We’ll move at this command,
And spread across the land,
In loyalty, loyalty,
Yes, loyalty to Christ.

O hear, ye brave, the sound that moves the earth around,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
Arise to dare and do, ring out the watchword true,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

The strength of youth we lay at Jesus’ feet today,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
The Gospel we’ll proclaim, throughout the world’s domain,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

Elijah Taylor Cassell, 1894; alt.
LOYALTY TO CHRIST (6.6.12.D. with refrain)
Flora Hamilton Cassel; 1894

The Cassels had moved to Nebraska by this time, where Flora became the president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) chapter in Edgar, NE. She compiled and edited White Ribbon Vibrations (1890), a popular temperance hymnal, which included many of her own songs.

Flora died in 1911, killed in a buggy accident (like Clara Scott before her).

Three Years Ago: Civilla Durfee Martin (another wife-husband team of collaborators)

Two Years Ago: Alexander Reinagle

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saint Mary the Virgin

The feast day of Saint Mary the Virgin (also known as the Assumption) is celebrated today (or was perhaps yesterday) in some churches. Though the story of Mary rising bodily into heaven is not told in the Bible, it dates back several centuries. One theory of its origin is that, although the bones and relics of the apostolic saints were venerated as early as the second century, there never were any claims of finding relics of Mary; therefore, her earthly body was no longer in this world.

We sing this hymn every year in my church when celebrating this feast, though it is not quite as focused on Mary as it is on Jesus (which makes it equally as appropriate for the
Feast of the Presentation, when we also sing it). It is one of the posthumously-published hymns of Reginald Heber in his Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year (1827).

Virgin-born, we bow before thee:
Blessed was the womb that bore thee;
Mary, Mother meek and mild,
Blessed was she in her Child.
Blessed was the breast that fed thee;
Blessed was the hand that led thee;
Blessed was the parent's eye
That watched thy slumbering infancy.

Blessed she by all creation,
Who brought forth the world's salvation,
And blessed they, for ever blest,
Who love thee most and serve thee best.
Virgin-born, we bow before thee;
Blessed was the womb that bore thee;
Mary, Mother meek and mild,
Blessed was she in her Child.

Reginald Heber, 1827
PSALM 86 (
Claude Goudimel, 1564; adapt. 20th cent.

The tune comes from composer Goudimel's setting of Psalm 86 for a sixteenth century French psalter, which he adapted from an earlier tune. It was later used by Gustav Holst in a choral setting os the same psalm.

Three Years Ago: Ye who claim the faith of Jesus

Two Years Ago:
Hail, holy Queen

One Year Ago:
Sing, sing ye angel bands

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Today is the 201st birthday of composer Samuel Sebastian Wesley, the grandson of hymnwriter Charles Wesley. His father, also Samuel, was a composer of some renown in his day but is largely forgotten now. The elder Samuel worked to promote the music of Johann Sebastian Bach in England, and his son (whose middle name came from the German master) would do the same in his day.

Young Samuel Sebastian became a boy chorister at the
Chapel Royal at age ten. One story told of his time there claims that his singing caught the attention of King George IV, who gave him a gold watch.

He obtained his first position as an organist at sixteen at St. James Church, Hampstead Road, and over the next five years worked at three additional London churches (sometimes at more than one at a time). In 1832 he became organist at Exeter Cathedral, and would go on to serve at the cathedrals of Winchester and Gloucester. He published the book A Few Words on Cathedral Music (1849) which argued for higher standards (and therefore higher salaries) for cathedral musicians.

Wesley wrote some music for the organ, but most of his output was
choral music, both anthems and music for the service, as well as 130 hymn tunes, several of which we have already heard here.

Today's hymn is set to a tune by Wesley which appeared in
The European Psalmist (1872), a collection he edited. The text is by an unknown author, but it has been used as a gospel song with a tune by James McGranahan.

O Christ, in thee my soul hath found,
And found in thee alone,
The peace, the joy I sought so long,
The bliss till now unknown.

I sighed for rest and happiness,
I yearned for them, not thee;
But, while I passed my Savior by,
Thy love laid hold on me.

I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But, ah, the waters failed;
Even as I stooped to drink they fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.

Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other Name for me!
There’s love, and life, and lasting joy,
Dear Jesus, found in thee.

Author unknown, 19th cent.; alt.
Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1872

The 'broken cisterns' in stanza three are presumably those in Jeremiah 2:13.

Two Years Ago: Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Sunday, July 24, 2011

John Newton

John Newton, whose birthday we mark today, was well-known in his own time for his influential collection titled Olney Hymns (named for the parish he led) which led to many congregations taking up the singing of hymns. However, he is much more well-known today as the author of Amazing grace; many people who couldn't name any other hymnwriter know of Newton because of that hymn and the story behind it.

Today's hymn comes from the last pages of Olney Hymns, a section of short hymns labeled After Sermons (though, in fact, in Newton's own church, all his hymns were sung after the sermon as they were specifically written to accompany his preaching). It was originally a general hymn, though in more recent times it has been slightly altered to be used as a wedding hymn, in this manner.

May the grace of Christ our Savior
And our Maker’s boundless love
With the Holy Spirit’s favor,
Rest upon them from above.

Thus may they abide in union
With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford.

John Newton, 1779; alt.
Christian F. Witt, 1715
adapt. Henry J. Gauntlett, 19th cent.

Three Years Ago: John Newton

Two Years Ago:
John Newton

One Year Ago:
John Newton

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Philip P. Bliss

Gospel songwriter Philip Paul Bliss was born today in Pennsylvania in 1838. There are some accounts which claim that he really had no middle name; that his name was originally Philipp, and he decided to spell it differently by making the second "p" into a middle initial, but most modern sources believe that Paul was his true middle name.

He grew up in farm country, where he went to work in that profession as a boy of thirteen. He had little or no opportunity for exposure to music, but he did attend school as much as possible, in addition to work, and by age eighteen he was teaching school. Shortly after that, he met Lucy Jane Young and they were married in 1859. Lucy sang in her church choir and had received some musical education, and she encouraged his modest interest in music. Over the next few years he studied music more formally and discovered a talent for songwriting.

His first published (secular) song was Lora Vale, which was brought out by
George Root's company. This new career avenue was very nearly delayed when he was drafted into the Union Army, in the spring of 1865, but as the Civil War was coming to an end the order was rescinded after two weeks. The following year Philip and Lucy moved to Chicago, where he went to work for Root's publishing house conducting singing schools and musical conventions, and continued to write secular and humorous songs, some under the pseudonym of Pro Phundo Basso.

In 1870 Bliss became both the choir director and Sunday school superintendent at the
First Congregational Church of Chicago. Around this time he began to write Sunday School songs, and compiled the songbook The Charm in 1871, which included several of these songs. Over the next two years, he published three more collections.

In 1874 he joined
Ira Sankey and Dwight Moody in their evangelical meetings as a song leader and soloist, and also began writing songs for their meetings. George Stebbins, in his Reminiscences and Gospel Hymn Stories (1924), recalled:

He had a voice of rare quality and splendid volume, a baritone of extraordinary range and evenness throughout... As a leader he occupied a position of prominence by reason of native gifts and years of enterience, which, combined with an impressive personality (he was six feet tall and of commanding stature, with features as perfect as form, and eyes that were large and kindly in expression), made him into the great leader of evangelistic song that he was.

In 1874 Bliss collaborated with Ira Sankey on the first volume of
Gospel Songs, which contained this song which is still sung today.

Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see,
Wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty,
Teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.

Christ, the bless├Ęd One, gives to all
Wonderful words of life;
We will list to the loving call,
Wonderful words of life;
All so freely given,
Wooing us to heaven.

Sweetly echo the gospel call,
Wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all,
Wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior,
Sanctify forever.

Philip P. Bliss, 1874; alt.

During the next two years, Bliss wrote several more gospel songs (sometimes both words and music, sometimes collaborating with others), including the well-loved tune VILLE DU HAVRE for Horatio Spafford's text It is well with my soul. However, on December 29, 1876, Philip and his wife Lucy were killed in a horrific train accident in Ashtabula, Ohio while traveling back to Chicago from spending Christmas in Pennsylvania. He was reported to have escaped the crash, but returned to the burning train car to rescue her. The victims of the wreck were burned beyond recognition and were buried in a common grave in Ashtabula.

Friend and fellow songwriter
Daniel Webster Whittle compiled the Memoirs of Philip P. Bliss, a brief biography which included testimonials from many friends and collaborators, which was sold to benefit the two young sons of Philip and Lucy, only two and four years old at the time of their parents' deaths. Many of Bliss's contemporaries believed that he would have become even more accomplished and popular as a songwriter had he lived to write for thirty more years.

Today, the
Philip P. Bliss Gospel Songwriters Museum in Rome, Pennsylvania in their former family home (picture below), honors the legacy of the man and his work. Northeastern PA is not so far away from me, so it may be that a visit is in order at some point.

Three Years Ago: Henry J. Gauntlett

Two Years Ago: Henry J. Gauntlett

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eliza Edmunds Hewitt

Today is the 150th birthday of lifelong Philadelphian Eliza Edmunds Hewitt, a prolific writer (and sometimes composer) of gospel songs. She graduated as valedictorian of the Philadelphia Girls' Normal School and began a career as a public school teacher. However, she was injured in the classroom by an unruly student who threw a heavy slate which struck her in the back, and this caused her to be bedridden for an extended period of time (and to suffer from back pain for the rest of her life).

It was apparently during this time that she began to write poetry which came to the attention of publisher
John R. Sweney (a gospel songwrtier himself), who invited her to try writing songs. She became one of his must successful writers, and he himself supplied tunes for several of her texts.

There's a clear fountain flowing
From the heavens above,
And its waters are glowing
With the sunshine of love;
Take the blest consolation,
Jesus came to bestow,
Take the cup of salvation,
Let the joy overflow.

O the joy! With this wondrous salvation
Be our hearts all aglow;
O the joy! Let the blessing run over,
And joy overflow.

Many hearts need the story,
Are athirst for that grace;
Go to them with Christ's glory
Shining out from your face;
Tell of Jesus your Savior!
And his mercies you know,
Show the light of his favor
Let the joy overflow.

Be our lives freely yielded
To the Savior's command;
By his care ever shielded
And upheld by his hand;
In the pathways of sadness,
Sweetest lilies may grow;
Let us sow seeds of gladness,
Let the joy overflow.

Eliza E. Hewitt, 1917; alt.
OVERFLOWING ( with refrain)
Charles H. Gabriel, 1917

Three Years Ago:
More Voices Found: Eliza Hewitt

Two Years Ago:
Frederick William Faber

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Philip Doddridge

Philip Doddridge (June 26, 1702 - October 26, 1751) is probably the third-most popular hymnwriter from the eighteenth century, behind Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, in the number of his texts which are still sung today.

Both of his grandfathers were ministers (though he never knew them); his mother's father lived in Germany for a time and returned to England with a Luther Bible, which was passed down to Philip, who was eventually to follow in his grandfathers' profession. His mother, Monica, taught him stories from the Bible when he was a child, pointing out the scenes as painted on Delft tiles surrounding the family fireplace.

For Doddridge's previous birthdays I have used more familiar hymns, but this one is probably not so well-known. Like all his texts, it was not published during his lifetime.

O Zion, tune your voice,
And raise your hands on high;
Tell all the earth your joys,
Proclaim salvation nigh;
Cheerful in God,
Arise and shine
While rays divine
Stream all abroad.

God gilds your mourning face
With beams that cannot fade;
God's all-resplendent grace
Is poured around your head;
The nations round
Your form shall view
With luster new
Divinely crowned.

In honor to God's name
Reflect that sacred light;
And loud that grace proclaim,
Which makes the whole world bright;
Pursue God's praise
Till sovereign love
In worlds above,
The glory raise.

Philip Doddridge, 1755; alt.
John Darwall, 1770

The church that Doddridge pastored in Northhampton for more than twenty years is still open today as the Castle Hill United Reformed Church (interior pictured below).

A note on the tune: The
Hallelujah meter, or as it is often written out, ( is not so widely used in modern hymnwriting, and overall there are fewer tunes written for it than some of the more oft-used ones. I think it could be due to the fact that there is only one truly great tune that has been written to fit that meter, the one above by John Darwall. I have used two others previously at the blog, BEVAN and SAMUEL, but neither is a good fit for these words. I looked at several others: ZEBULON was not quite right, and ST. SWITHIN was hopelessly Victorian. LAUS DEO and ST. GODRIC were both closer to the right feel, but really, if anyone was going to sing this hymn today, why would they not choose the familiar DARWALL, which is about as joyful a tune as you could want, proceeding to a powerful climax.

Three Years Ago: Philip Doddridge

Two Years Ago: Philip Doddridge

One Year Ago: Philip Doddridge

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday

O Trinity of blessed light,
O Unity of sovereign might,
Whene'er the fiery sun departs,
Shed thou thy beams within our hearts.

To thee our morning song of praise,
To thee our evening prayer we raise;
Thy threefold glory we adore
Forever and forevermore.

Now to the great and sacred Three,
Creator, Christ, and Spirit be
Eternal praise and glory giv'n
By all the saints in earth and heav'n.

Ambrose of Milan, 4th cent.; tr. composite
Jeremiah Clarke, 1700

Three Years Ago: Trinity Sunday

Two Years Ago: Trinity Sunday

One Year Ago: Trinity Sunday

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Samuel Longfellow

Unitarian minister, hymnwriter and editor Samuel Longfellow (June 18, 1819 - October 3, 1892) was born in Portland, Maine, the younger brother of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

His first major hymnological undertaking was while he was still a student at Harvard Divinity School, when he and his friend
Samuel Johnson compiled a new hymnal for Unitarian churches, A Book of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion (1844). The book was successful, selling out and requiring a second edition two years later, which they revised and updated. Several years later the two collaborated again, publishing Hymns of the Spirit (1864), much of which they edited while on an extended European vacation.

These two books were criticized for the liberties which Longfellow and Johnson took with the hymn texts they included. They drew their material from a wide variety of sources, including the hymnals of several different denominations, and were not hesitant to alter the texts to conform to Unitarian beliefs. Longfellow explained their reasons to another Unitarian minister in a letter not long before his death.

It is the principle of adaptation to a special use which is the only justification of changes in hymns that I can offer. It is a question of using or not using which makes it needful to change (1) some verses originally written not as hymns, yet which one wants to use as such; (2) some hymns written by persons of different beliefs from those who are to use the hymn-book, phrases in which could not be conscientiously said or sing by the latter, yet which from their general value of strength, fervor, or tendeness could ill be spared. If I had been making a collection of hymns or religious poetry for private reading, I should not have altered a single word.

Nothing here is particularly unusual; as I have said many times, hymnal editors have always done this, long before Johnson and Longfellow, and right up to the present day. However, they were particularly known in their own day for their editorial changes. The sister of one of their friends,
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, wrote the following limerick:

There once were two Sams of Amerique
Who belonged to a profession called clerique.
They hunted up hymns and cut off their limbs,
These truculent Sams of Amerique.

Of course, the hymns that the two men wrote themselves did not have to be altered, though sometimes they were altered when included in later hymnals edited by others (no one gets a pass). This hymn of Longfellow's has appeared in at least a hundred collections, according to

God of the earth, the sky, the sea!
Maker of all above, below!
Creation lives and moves in thee,
Thy present life in all doth flow.

Thy love is in the sunshine's glow,
Thy life is in the quickening air;
When lightnings flash and storm winds blow,
There is thy power; thy law is there.

We feel thy calm at evening's hour,
Thy grandeur in the march of night;
And when the morning breaks in pow'r,
We hear thy Word, “Let there be light.”

But higher far, and far more clear,
Thee in our spirits we behold;
Thine image and thyself are there,
Indwelling God, proclaimed of old.

Samuel Longfellow, 1864
John Hatton, 1793

Longfellow's collected texts were published after his death as Hymns and Verses (1894), edited by his niece, Alice Longfellow. They continue to appear in hymnals today, and not just Unitarian ones. I have presented a number of others over the last few years on other dates than his birthday, which you can find by clicking his tag/label below.

There is a fairly recent Longfellow biography, The Quiet Radical (2007) by Joseph C. Abdo which I have not yet read but hope to soon. And tomorrow, at least one of Longfellow's hymns will be sung in
this hymn festival in California, though I have not heard which one yet.

Three Years Ago: Samuel Longfellow

Two Years Ago: Samuel Longfellow

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Feast of Pentecost

This ancient hymn for the day of Pentecost is used as a processional in many places, though it's not for everyone. The musical setting is a bit more complex than a standard hymn, beginning with a refrain and proceeding to two different, alternating melodies for the stanzas.

Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day that art hallowed forever;
Day when the Holy Spirit
Shone on the world with God's grace.

Lo! in the likeness of fire,
On them that await her appearing,
She whom the Lord foretold,
Suddenly, swiftly, descends.

Down from the heavens she comes
With her sev'nfold mystical off'ring,
Pouring on all human souls
Infinite riches of God.

Hark! in a hundred tongues
Christ's own, the chosen Apostles,
Preach to a hundred tribes
Christ and his wonderful works.

Praise to the Spirit of life,
All praise to the Fount of our being,
Light that dost lighten all,
Life that in all dost abide.

God the Almighty, who fillest
The heav'n, the earth and the ocean,
Guard us from harm without,
Free us from evil within.

God, who art Giver of all
Good gifts and lover of concord,
Pour thy balm on our souls,
Order our ways in thy peace.

Venantius Fortunatus, 6th cent.;
tr. Gabriel Gillett, 1906; alt.
Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

The original Latin text Salve, festa dies (Hail thee, festival day) by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus is much longer, and there are other modern hymns also taken from it for Easter and Ascension. It became popular in his time and stanzas were added by others over time. In fact, much of this Pentecost text is apparently not by Fortunatus, but derives from a later medieval version used as a Pentecost precessional in York.

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: The Feast of Pentecost

Two (Liturgical) Years Ago:
The Feast of Pentecost

One (Liturgical) Year Ago:
The Feast of Pentecost

One (Calendar) Year Ago:
Harriet Martineau

Friday, June 10, 2011

Minot Judson Savage

Minot Judson Savage was born on this day in 1841 in the small town of Norridgewock, Maine (which certainly sounds like an interesting place to be born). His family were committed New England Congre-gationalists, and he attended the Bangor Theological Seminary and was ordained in the Congregational Church upon his graduation in 1864. He had served a year in the Christian Commission during the Civil War, and now he was sent to California as a missionary, returning in 1867 to pastor a church in Framingham, Massachusetts.

His views and beliefs changed over time, and in 1873 he resigned from his pastorate in Hannibal, Missouri and became a Unitarian minister. Over the next thirty years he led congregations in Chicago and Boston, and was finally the associate pastor of the
Church of the Messiah in New York City (now the Community Church).

He championed the causes of progressive Christianity in his day, including comparative religion and modern biblical criticism. His 1876 book The Religion of Evolution, less than a quarter century after Darwin's theory was published, was very influential. Many of his sermons were published, and he also wrote poetry and hymns.

While in Boston he began compiling a hymnal for the use of his own church, as he was not satidfied with the available choices, but when this became known he was encouraged to publish it for wider cicculation.
Sacred Songs for Public Worship appeared in 1883. This book included several of his own hymns, and in 1899 several more were collected with those, published as Hymns by Minot Judson Savage. These texts follow his particular themes, bearing titles such as Evolution, Education, and All Truth Leads to God.

His thoughts on the hymnwriting process may be gleaned from a verse on the title page of the later collection.

But one hymn let me write
Which men will keep alive
For strength and hope and light
As up and on they strive,
And I will ask no more of fame;
For loving hearts will love my name.

His hymn O star of Truth, down shining still appears in the latest Unitarian hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition (1993), and while it is not more widely known in other denominations, that may be enough for Savage. In looking through his later collection, this one caught my eye for today.

New blessings ev'ry morning,
New blessings still at eve,
Our lives with mercy crowning,
We as thy gift receive.
As are the stars in number,
As are the seashore sands,
So many are the bounties
Still flowing from thy hands.

But of thy gifts the sweetest,
Divinest is that we,
Our own small needs forgetting,
May work and give like thee.
The world and all it's sorrows
Our hearts, like thine, can feel,
And we, as thy co-workers,
Can trust and hope and heal.

Then to this holy mission
We pledge ourselves anew:
We give our minds to seeking,
Our hearts to love, the true.
So, grateful for thy goodness,
We join with thee to prove
All service shows thy teaching:
The way of life is love.

Minot Judson Savage, 1890; alt.
Emily Swan Perkins, 1924

The footnotes indicate that this hymn was written for a meeting of the New York League of Unitarian Women in December of 1890, so it seems appropriate to match it with a tune by Emily Swan Perkins, as the original tune to which it was sung is unrecorded.

Savage retired from the Church of the Messiah in 1906 due to poor health, but he remained active in the American Unitarian Association. He died in Boston on May 22, 1918, while attending a national Unitarian conference.

Three Years Ago: Saint Ephrem

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sir John Stainer

Sir John Stainer (June 6, 1840 - March 31, 1901) was one of the most well-known English church musicians of his time. Though he wrote many hymn tunes, anthems and service music, not many of them are still in use today. His one enduring work was an oratorio, The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer (to give the full title), words by William J. Sparrow-Simpson, which was first performed on February 24, 1887, which was the day after Ash Wednesday. This work is still often performed by church choirs all over the world.

Of particular interest here is that there are six hymns interspersed between the choral movements, which were intended to be sung by the audience/congregation. At least two of the tunes of these hymns by Stainer have retained some life of their own, ALL FOR JESUS and CROSS OF JESUS.

But by far the most well-known section of The Crucifixion is God so loved the world, which has been sung by thousands of choirs who would never sing the entire work. The video below is the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where Stainer both sang as a boy chorister, and served for many years as organist.

God so loved the world
That he gave his only-begotten Son
That whoso believeth, believeth in him
Should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world
But that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:16-17

Three Years Ago:
Sir John Stainer

One Year Ago: Sir John Stainer

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Seeking Thee Beyond the Skies

The Feast of the Ascension, forty days after Easter (and thus always a Thursday), is often moved to the Sunday after.

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia!
Glorious to his native skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Enters in the highest heaven, Alleluia!

Circled round with angel pow'rs, Alleluia!
Their triumphant Lord, and ours, Alleluia!
There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!

See! He lifts his hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on the church below, Alleluia!

Grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
Seeking thee beyond the skies, Alleluia!
Ever upward let us move, Alleluia!
Wafted on the wings of love, Alleluia!

There we shall with thee remain, Alleluia!
Partners of thy endless reign, Alleluia!
There thy face unclouded see, Alleluia!
Find our heav'n of heav'ns in thee, Alleluia!

Charles Wesley, 1739; alt.
LLANFAIR ( with Alleluias)
Robert Williams, 1817;
harm. John Roberts, 1837

Short entry today as I am off to NYC to sing a performance of Haydn's Creation in a memorial concert fot Johannes Somary, a famed choral conductor who died earlier this year, with a chorus of 200.

Three Years Ago: The Feast of the Ascension

Two Years Ago:
The Feast of the Ascension

One Year Ago:
The Feast of the Ascension

Friday, June 3, 2011

Charles H. Steggall

British composer Charles Steggall (June 3, 1826 - June 7, 1905) was born in London, where he was to remain the rest of his life. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music under William Sterndale Bennett, and later became the chief professor of the organ there from 1851 to 1903. It's claimed that he taught more organists than anyone else in England in the second half of the nineteenth century.

His own career as an organist spanned several London churches, particularly
Lincoln's Inn Chapel, where he served from 1864 until his death. He began writing hymn tunes and worked as musical editor on two early collections: Church Psalmody (1849) and Hymns for the Church of England (1865).

In 1889, after the death of
William H. Monk, Steggall succeeded him as musical editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern. Unfortunately, the next published edition, in 1904, was not popular, considered to be too severe in its changes.

Unlike many of his Victorian age counterparts in church music, who wrote at least one or two tunes that we still sing today, Steggall's tunes (a few of which you can hear at the Cyber Hymnal site) have not survived well. I liked this one, which was written fairly late in his career and apparently was first published in this country in the Presbyterian Hymnal of 1933 matched with O holy city, seen of John.

Beyond, beyond the boundless sea,
Above the dome of sky.
Farther than thought itself can flee
Thy dwelling is on high;
Yet dear the blissful thought to me
That thou, my God, art nigh!

We hear thy voice when thunders roll,
Through the wide fields of air;
The waves obey thy firm control,
Yet still thou art not there;
Where shall I find thee present, God.
Who yet is everywhere?

O, not in circling depth or height,
But in the conscious breast,
Present to faith, yet veiled to sight,
There doth thy Spirit rest;
O come, thou Presence infinite,
And make thy people blest!

Josiah Conder, 1824; alt.
Charles H. Steggall, 1890

One Year Ago: Brian Wren

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Our Hymn of Grateful Praise

Rogation Sunday, a time to mark the changing season and our thanks for the good things of the earth is celebrated in some churches on the last Sunday of the Easter season. Today's hymn is probably still found in nearly every modern hymnal, as it has been for the last century and longer.

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,

Source of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow'r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light,

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind's delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight,

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,

For each perfect gift of thine
to all people freely giv'n,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of heav'n,

Folliott Sandford Pierpoint, 1864; alt.
Tune: DIX (
Conrad Kocher, 1838

Folliott Pierpoint, a native of Bath in England, reportedly wrote this text after returning from a walk on a fine spring day. Though the hymn is widely used, it is also widely altered; it almost seems that every hymnal editor who has chosen to include it has changed something in the text. Even the well-known last line of the refrain, which I used above as the title, was originally "this our sacrifice of praise." There are also three additional stanzas:

For thy Bride that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Off'ring up on every shore
This pure sacrifice of love,

For the martyrs' crown of light,
For thy prophets' eagle eye,
For thy bold confessors' might,
For the lips of infancy,

For thy virgins' robes of snow,
For thy maiden Mother mild,
For thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesus,Victim undefiled,

The first of these is sometimes used, altering "Bride" to "Church," but the other two have disappeared completely. I suppose the assumption is that they don't go with the theme of God in Nature, though that wasn't really Sandford's original theme.

DIX is a German tune that was named at some later date in English hymnals when the tune came to be widely matched with
an Epiphany hymn by poet William Chatterton Dix.

Two Years Ago: Kindly Earth with Timely Birth

One Year Ago: Earth Feels the Season's Joyance