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Songs of Hospitality, Stewardship of Creation, Ascension, and Pentecost

God, You Call Us to This Place
Creation Sings! Each Plant and Tree
You Are Crowned with Many Crowns
Santo Espíritu, excelsa paloma/Holy Spirit,
from Heaven Descended

Here are four new texts, two set to familiar older hymn tunes, and two altogether new. These songs were selected from Sing! A New Creation, scheduled for release later this year. The contents of that hymnal will be featured at COLAM 2001, a worship conference to be held at Wheaton, Illinois, on July 11-14, 2001. See inside front cover ad as well as information on p. 47. Wheaton is the place to be that week!

God, You Call Us to This Place

Click to listen  [ melody | full ]

The first hymn includes the word hospitality, a word not often found in hymnody but included here in a fine text that draws a picture of a diverse people gathered in unity. We want our churches to be places of hospitality (see pp. 16–19). Roman Catholic communities have long been known for both hospitality and prayer; many Protestants also experience those communities as hospitable places for spiritual retreat and refreshment. This hymn was written by Delores Dufner, a Benedictine nun living in St. Joseph, Minnesota. It is taken from her collection Sing a New Church (OCP Publications, 1994; available from The Hymn Society, 1-800-THE HYMN) and is one of her hymns that have been finding their way into Protestant and Catholic hymnals in the past few years.

Dufner describes her approach to writing hymns in the preface. After quoting the passage from Genesis 32 about Jacob wrestling with the angel, she writes:

Every creative art involves a persistent wrestling with angels. Artists struggle to reveal what is partially hidden, not letting go even when they are wounded, not giving way until they are blessed with a new glimmering of truth and they know more profoundly the God of mystery who has engaged them.… I believe my task as a writer of hymn texts is to discover and give expression to the prayer hidden but nonetheless already present in the hearts of believers. The greatest affirmation I ever received as a hymn writer came from one of my sisters: “Your hymns put on our lips the prayer in our hearts.”

For this hymn she chose st. george’s windsor (the tune associated with “Come, You Thankful People, Come”); here it is set to salzburg, also a tune that can support this text with, as she suggests, “a strong, steady pulse and clear, bright organ registration.” Scripture references are 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Peter 2:9-10.

Sometimes a text clearly belongs in one category or another, such as Advent or Easter. The committee for Sing! A New Creation first placed this in the category “Intercessory Prayer,” since we were looking for texts in that section that spoke to the call of the church to intercede for the world. Stanza 2 speaks of our ministry of prayer, and stanza 3 mentions the priestly role of God’s people: “for the world we intercede.” But the text speaks of much more, and we ended up including it in the first section of gathering songs. So enjoy this hymn at the beginning of a service, when we rehearse the purposes of our gathering together. But also consider singing before or even as part of the congregational prayer.

Creation Sings! Each Plant and Tree

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In addition to hospitality, stewardship is another theme featured in this issue (see service plans on p. 20). This text was written in 1995 by Martin E. Leckebusch, an English writer who responded to our announcement in the Bulletin of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland inviting new hymn texts for a hymnal supplement. Although he works most of the time as a systems programmer, he loves to write hymns; he has also been a lay preacher in the Methodist Church. He is very interested in expanding the language of worship so that our Sunday talk and our Monday walk are more closely and honestly linked.

This text begins not in praise of creation, but in our witness that the creation itself praises God (Ps. 19). Stanza 2 reminds us of our role as stewards of God’s creation; the language of praise shifts to confession in a reference to Romans 8:22: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” The final stanza looks forward to the renewed creation.

The tune st. petersburg will be familiar to most hymn-singing congregations, and Bert Polman has composed a trumpet descant that will provide good leadership and a festive treatment of the text. If your congregation knows this tune well, use the trumpet melody on the first stanza. Then add the descant on stanza 2, but consider stopping the trumpet at “When we disparage...” That is not something to trumpet! Wait until the end of stanza 3 to bring back the trumpets on the lines:

till round the universe
there rings
the song God’s new
creation sings!

To celebrate the Ascension, introduce this song celebrating the reign of Christ, “Lord of heaven and earth, Lord of all.” It was composed by John Sellers almost twenty years ago and has become a standard in Integrity Music’s repertoire list. This joyfully triumphant coronation hymn is based on Hebrews 1:3 and Revelation 19:12. In contrast to the festive and active syncopated rhythms in the first part, the final statement, “You are Lord of all,” is sung twice with sustained lines. You may wish to sing the statement first in a somewhat subdued and contemplative manner, but then let the repetition grow to full strength on the final “all.”

For several years it was hard to find out much about the writers of contemporary songs; for much global music, it is still difficult to trace the fascinating stories of the authors, composers, or communities who have given us gifts of worship songs. But with the advent of the Internet and the success of many artists in the Maranatha!, Integrity, and Vineyard orbits, this kind of information is often readily available. To learn about John Sellers, check his website (www.johnsellers.com).

Several arrangements of this song are available, and, as in many contemporary worship songs, the keyboard accompaniment is important. For Sing! A New Creation the singer’s edition will include the music in four-part harmony as presented here; the leader’s edition will include a more active keyboard accompaniment. We don’t have room for it all, but the first two lines of the accompaniment are included.

Santo Espíritu, excelsa paloma
Holy Spirit, from Heaven Descended

Click to listen  [ melody | full ]

What better time than Pentecost Sunday to sing a song in a language other than English! This year try “Santo Espíritu, excelsa paloma” by Filipe Blycker, who composed the whole thing, text and music, in Spanish and English. Blycker is a talented composer from Dallas, Texas, who composed or arranged more than a dozen songs in Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Abingdon, 1996), the Hispanic hymnal of the United Methodist Church.

Although the melody is long, the structure and internal repetition make it very accessible. The length of the text, however, will make singing it in Spanish a challenge. At least attempt to sing the first line of every stanza in Spanish as one small way to undo even now the power of the tower of Babel.

The text is rich, packed with biblical imagery, and filled with liturgical potential. Here is one set of ideas for use:

Choir or small group sings stanza 1 as a sung prayer at the beginning of the service, followed by everyone singing stanza 2. A bit later, use stanzas 3 and 4 as a prayer for illumination.

As for all new hymns, don’t just sing this once and put it away. Plan on singing it again once a month or so throughout the summer. It will soon take root in the hearts of the people as a song they will be able to sing on their own during the week.