Sunday, November 15, 2015

Love Is Our Refuge

Last weekend I attended a hymn festival in Boston presented by the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, an organization that you should all join which is dedicated to "promoting, enlivening, and encouraging congregational song."  The Society is now holding these events in various parts of the country in addition to their annual conference, and if there's one nearby you should definitely take the opportunity to go.  More will be announced for 2016, I'm sure.

The theme of this particular festival was the celebration of hymn writers and composers from the Boston area, both historical and contemporary.  Many of the hymns were familiar, and we had a chance to learn more about the backgrounds of each one.  The hymn below was not one I had seen before, by Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science church. In that denomination it is known as the "Mother's Evening Prayer." It has mostly only been published in Christian Science hymnals, but I see nothing in it that would prevent it from being sung elsewhere, even though it avoids the "Lord and King" language for Jesus in favor of other more peaceful names.  The closing line is derived from Matthew 28, Jesus' commissioning of the disciples following the resurrection.

O Gentle Presence, peace and joy and pow'r,
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou Love that guards the nestling's falt'ring flight,
Keep thou thy child on upward wing tonight.

Love is our refuge, only with thine eye
Can I behold the snare, the pit, the fall;
Thy habitation high is here, and nigh,
Thine arm encircles me, and mine, and all.

Beneath the shadow of thy mighty wing,
In that sweet secret of the narrow way,
Seeking and finding, with the angels sing:
"Lo, I am with you always, watch and pray."

Mary Baker Eddy, 1896; alt.
Frederick C. Atkinson, 1870

In light of this week's events, a hymn about peace and love that encircles us all seems very appropriate (please remember that there were also bombings in Beirut the day before the Paris attacks, as indeed there are every week in other parts of the world).

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