Song of Intercession
A Touching Place
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Several articles in this issue touch on issues of hospitality. Whether visiting other places of worship (p. 12) or helping to make our services of worship welcoming to young people (p. 9) or doubters (p. 14) or any others who may not easily come to a service of public worship, all Christians need to remember the wideness of Christ's love and try to make our churches, our homes, and especially our hearts places of welcome.
The text of "A Touching Place" was written by John Bell and Graham Maule, two members of the lona Community in Scotland. Bell arranged a traditional Scottish tune to carry these words, in which we call to mind that Christ is the one who calls us to worship. Christ meets us, embraces us, and makes room for everyone who comes. In this song, we intercede for all the people who need the compassion and care of the Christian community.
This song is the first one in Common Ground: A Song Book for All the Churches, a collection of 150 songs published in 1998 by St. Andrew Press in Edinburgh, Scotland. John Bell was the convener of the ecumenical editorial committee. Common Ground includes the following brief note for "A Touching Place":
Perhaps the tune drf.am angus was never meant to be harmonized. It is essentially a lullaby, a woman's nursing song, well suited to these words. Whether accompanied or not, the verses should be sung solo with the congregation responding in the chorus.
The tune is the same for the verses as for the refrain; only the harmonization changes.
A Spoken and Sung of Intercession
The following spoken prayers expand this sung prayer of intercession. Martin Tel, director of music at Princeton Theological Seminary, submitted this part of a sendee held at the seminary:
Merciful God, your love for us makes us bold to join our prayers with all who need your help. We bring our prayers to you.
All sing stanza 1 of "A Touching Place."
Pray for those who suffer pain and for those who struggle with limits of body and soul.
Silence, then all sing stanza 2,
Pray for those who know that they must shortly die, and for those who cannot wait to die.
Silence, then all sing stanza 3.
Pray for those grieving the loss of a child through illness, miscarriage, or other disaster. And pray for all children without families or homes.
Silence, then all sing stanza 4.
Pray for all diose beaten down by society, by family members, and by self.
Silence, then ail sing stanza 5.
Come, redeeming God, take all these sufferings upon yourself and transform them. Be merciful also to us, who offer these prayers, so that we might enter the sufferings of others and become agents of your healing love. Through suffering, transform us, we pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
A Hymn for Ordination
God the Spirit, Guide and Guardian
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This spring, another round of seminary students will be concluding their studies, preparing for a call, and planning their ordination service; other pastors will be moving and planning installation services. There are few hymns specifically written for a pastor's ordination, but here is an excellent one by Carl Daw, currently executive director of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.
Carl Daw wrote this text in 1987 as a gift to a fellow Episcopal priest who was being ordained as a bishop in the diocese of Connecticut. It was sung then to the tune jefferson and has since been sung to several other tunes, among them the familiar iiyfkydol, in bam lone, and neti'I.f.ton. We present it here to the rune CHURCH united by Afred V. Fedak, who also wrote an anthem with this combination published by Selah Publishing Company ("Triune God, Mysterious Being"; www.selahpub.com).
The text was published in A Year of Grace, Daw's first of three published collections of hymn texts (Hope, 1990). In that collection, as in his other works, Daw combines his gifts as hymn writer with his background as pastor, teacher, and theologian to describe and exegete the text, which is filled with biblical and liturgical imagery. Here is a summary of what he wrote:
Stanza 1 is addressed to the third person of the Trinity, following the tradition of singing "Veni Creator Spiritus" (Come, Holy Spirit) in the prayers and hymns of the Episcopal ordination rites. It includes these biblical connections:
- "Guide and guardian"—paraphrase of Paraklets (John 14:26)
- "wind-sped flame"—recalls the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)
- "hovering dove"—alludes to the baptism of Christ (all four gospels)
- "breath of life"—refers to creation (Gen. 2:7)
- "voice of the prophets"—echoes the Nicene Creed
- "sign of blessing"—refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism
- "power of love"—Jesus' words to the apostles (Acts 1:8), plus an allusion to the hymn "Come Down, O Love Divine"
Stanza 2 addresses Christ, the second person of the Trinity, with several references to the work of Christ, especially as shepherd (1 Peter 2:25), including the word "pastor" (which means shepherd).
Stanza 3 addresses the first person of the Trinity. "Life-bestower" is used to address the Father, since until the nineteenth century it was assumed that the male provided all the life-bearing substance needed for procreation. However, the same word was used in an ancient Greek hymn (Plws hilaron) to refer to Christ, and in the Nicene Creed as an attribute of the Holy Spirit.
Balancing that comes "womb of mercy," reflecting the Hebrew and Aramaic words for mercy that are derived from a root meaning "womb." "Giving and forgiving" is a phrase lifted from Henry Van Dyke's hymn "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee." In the last two lines the oversee/overseer pun is a play on the Greek word for bishop, episcopos (literally "overseer"). The feminine pronoun for the church as the bride of Christ is taken from Revelation 21:2.
The final stanza calls for the undivided Trinity to "bless the full range of ministries entrusted to the church. The diversity of lay and ordained ministries is a reflection of the plenitude of God, yet even the sum of them falls far short of God's full glory."
Since both text and tune may be unfamiliar, consider having a choir sing the first three stanzas, with everyone joining on the final stanza.
A Psalm for Trinity Sunday
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The Sunday following Pentecost is traditionally called "Trinity Sunday," the day when the church celebrates the mystery of one God in three Persons. In the words of the fourth-century hymn:
Though in essence only one;
undivided God, we claim you,
and, adoring, bend the knee
while we own the mystery.
—from "Holy God, We Probe Your Name"
Psalm 29 is chosen to go with the Old Testament reading of Isaiah 6:1-8 for this Sunday (Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary). It is certainly an appropriate text for celebrating the mysterious power and presence of the triune God.
The setting of Psalm 29 here comes from the Presbyterian version of the new bilingual Korean/English hymnal and service book (see p. 28).
Rev. Seung-Nam Kim composed most of the psalm settings in the tradition of Korean modal melodies, His melody for Psalm 29 is vigorous, strong, and very accessible for Western ears. The text of the psalm is arranged for responsive reading, with the refrain sung at the beginning, after stanza 4, and at the end.
Rev. Kim is pastor of Se-Mee Presbyterian Church in Pomona, California, and was a member of the committee that prepared the this hymnal. Kim has a Korean background in opera and choral music. After moving to the United States he continued music studies in New York, and then studied theology and liturgy at Claremont School of Theology in California, earning a D.Min. with a concentration in liturgy. 1 had the opportunity to meet him in Southern California and hear him lead singing with his strong and clear voice. He suggests that drums would be an appropriate instrument to accompany this refrain.