Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hymn reflection: All are welcome and Alleluia, Alleluia

Since everyone seemed to enjoy our Lenten series of Hymn reflections, I thought I would occasionally share a hymn or two which we were going to sing in worship on the coming Sunday. This Sunday, we'll be singing a modern hymn which has become a favourite at Seal, "Let us build a house" - otherwise known by its refrain "all are welcome."
It was written by Marty Haugen, and it pretty much encapsulates what (we hope! ) we are about at Seal Church. We have our Annual Parochial Church meeting on Sunday after church, so it seemed like the right time to set out one of our foundational commitments as a church - to be a place where everyone is included and valued, with precious gifts to give.

The second hymn I have shared is the one which will open our worship on Sunday, "Alleluia, Alleluia, hearts to heaven and voices raise".
I don't think we can provide trumpets and drums, but we can do our best to sing this fine Easter hymn with gusto! I love the reminder in its second verse that "Christ is risen, we are risen". Resurrection isn't just about what happened thousands of years ago to Jesus, but what can happen in our lives every day if we let it.
You can find it on Youtube here https://youtu.be/7ezuuH7fKYo The words are by Christopher Wordsworth, an Anglican bishop, (and nephew of the poet William Wordsworth) and the music is by Arthur Sullivan - of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. He composed a number of hymn tunes. (http://gsarchive.net/sullivan/hymns/) some of which are stirring and singable.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Decorations and an Easter Carol

Here are some photos of the church on Easter Sunday. Sorry I couldn't take any of the service itself - I was too busy leading it! We had a very good turnout though, and a lovely atmosphere of rejoicing. Sermons from Holy Week and Easter are here. Many thanks to all who have helped make Holy Week and Easter so special this year at Seal

The new Paschal Candle. Many thanks for decorating the candle stand so beautifully, Chris.

The board of remembrance. We prayed for those we mourned at Easter.

Some of our resurrection butterflies decorated the board and flew up from it across the Lady Chapel screen.

The empty tomb, glowing with glory in the Lady Chapel.

Easter egg decorations.

There are giant bunnies in the windows!

Here's the Easter Carol the choir sang on Easter Sunday morning at Seal, and some photos from Holy Week and Easter. The words are by Bishop Philip Brooks (writer of "O little town of Bethlehem) and the music is by my husband (and our choirmaster) Philip Le Bas. He was rather chuffed to discover another video of it on YouTube, sung by a choir at a church in Bangalore! They had presumably found it on his page on cpdl 
http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Philip_Le_Bas. Their version with accompaniment on assorted Indian instruments, by the sound of things, is here. https://youtu.be/ZjjnIGn9Xlo.

Christ is Risen!

Here's a poem I wrote some years ago to celebrate Easter morning. I was struck by the way that, although the crucifixion was very public, and was accompanied, according to the Gospels, by darkness over the earth and earthquakes, the resurrection appearances weren't grand spectacles, but "small, domestic tales". Two tired people on the road to Emmaus, a bunch of disciples hiding in a locked room, Thomas, who had felt left out, a weeping woman, grief struck because she had lost her friend: these were the encounters which people had with the risen Christ. They were about individuals , their regrets, guilt, disappointments and sorrows, and yet, this is what the grand sorrows of the world are made up of, and so it can only be in the healing of these sorrows that the healing of the world can happen, in the small, intimate spaces of people's real lives, as they find hope, forgiveness and joy in the risen Christ. 

Anyway - here is the poem (from my poetry blog here) , and a lovely hopeful piece of music after it. 


On Friday night
creation howled
as sorrow's needles snagged the earth's loose woven cloth,
and pulled its sinew threads together
tight against the pain.

On Friday night

the world, round mouthed with horror, echoed
wood to nails, rope to stone
"life killed
love lost ;
fire quenched
hope disappointed."
And our God was silent
as the lights went out.

On Saturday

we listened, hearing noises in the darkness.
But it was nothing.
Just the rattling of our fears.

But on Sunday, though we'd stopped our ears,

a wondering whisper crept beneath the door,
tossed on the gleeful winds.

"A strange man

newly come to town
found loitering,
by the roadsides,
in the graveyard,
half known in the firelight
spinning stories."

And hearth to hearth told small, domestic tales of resurrection.

On Sunday, when we listened, and heard at last,

our Christ strolled laughing, back from Hell
with all our ransomed lives
stuffed in his knapsack.

Easter 1990

This piece of music is one of my favourites. It is the final movement from the ballet suite by Hugo Alfven, The Prodigal Son. To me, it is the moment when the younger son, who has wasted all the inheritance he demanded from his father on wine, women and song in a foreign country, finally comes home, not hoping for anything more than a position as a servant. The solo violin at the start (you can't hear it too well on this recording, because of all the other noise), to me, is the son realising that he has been forgiven and taken back into the heart of the family. (I preached on this theme on Good Friday - sermon here

This recording is the encore from a concert by the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic. Orchestra, who bring just the right youthful exuberance to the piece. Hugo Alfven was a Swedish composer, whose music was often inspired by Scandinavian folk music and folklore. He is regarded as something of a national composer in Sweden. 

Enjoy! Happy Easter from me, and all at Seal Church.

There's another version of it here - this piece starts at 16.18. https://youtu.be/eHKoqbJYpvI

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday at Seal Church

Good Friday at Seal Church is a busy day, with Messy Church in the morning and a still, quiet service in the afternoon, and in between I put up displays which try to link together the two. Here are some pictures from the day. Our next Messy Church is on Sunday May 28 from 3 -4.30pm.
The displays in church will stay up well into next week , in case you want to pop in. The church is normally open from about 9.30am to 5pm.
Annie having a go at the egg tossing challenge.

We made a cross out of heart shaped stamps in all the colours of the rainbow. God loves us all.

Some quiet colouring and a chat.

We made origami butterflies and chicks as we thought about Easter Changes. The caterpillar turns into a butterfly. The chick hatches out of a stone-like egg. In his resurrection, Jesus changes everything. Could we change a flat sheet of paper into a butterfly or a chick? It took a bit of concentration, but lots of Messy Churchers managed it!

We made junk model houses and talked about home and what it meant to us. Jesus came to bring us back into the heart of God. 

We thought about the colours you see in church at Easter - yellow, gold and white - and made a window picture by sticking things in those colours to clear sticky back plastic. The resulting pictures were all different, and all looked lovely. 

We made cockerels to help us think about the story of Peter, who said he would always be Jesus' friend, but denied knowing him three times before the cock crowed the next day, just as Jesus had said he would. Jesus forgave him, though. When we get things wrong we can always be forgiven. 

Marion, Jill, and others did a great job supplying us with hot cross buns and tea. 

Here are some houses. One with smoke coming out of its chimney.

One with stairs inside.

A block of flats.

A church - God's house.

Houses need doors. 

In the afternoon, our Good Friday service was a quiet contemplative service, with a chance to light a candle. 

There were displays around the church, helping people to reflect on the themes of the day, and often featuring things we'd made in the morning at Messy Church. 

There are some of those butterflies.

Mary mistook the risen Christ for a gardener, so there was a display exploring that, along with some of my spare tomato and aubergine plants. 

A display exploring the story of Peter and the cockerel.

The rainbow heart stamped cross turned out well, in this display about the ways in which the cross shows us the love of God for all people. 

One of those Easter colours crosses. The child who made this particularly wanted me to have it and display it rather than taking it home.

Some thoughtful responses to the question. 

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 35: Songs for the Seasons

Come down O love divine

This hymn is associated with the Feast of Pentecost (Whitsun) fifty  days after Easter. On this day Christians remember the story of the Holy Spirit descending on the early Christians, giving them courage to spread the message Jesus had entrusted to them.

The hymn is a translation of a medieval Italian poem by mystical poet, Bianco da Siena (c.1350-1434). Originally a wool carder from Siena, he joined an order of friars called the Jesuates. Rather like the Franciscans they were committed to living a life of poverty, and were known for their mystical and ecstatic practices of prayer. The poem, Discendi amor santo was translated by Dr Richard Littledale (1833-90) and first appeared in print in 1867. Littledale was another member of the Oxford Movement, like John Mason Neale (see Day 30), and, like him, translated many hymns from Latin and Greek. He was a curate in Norfolk and then at St Mary the Virgin, Soho, but retired through ill health in 1861 and devoted himself to literature and theology after that.
The hymn wasn’t widely sung until it was chosen by Percy Dearmer in 1906 for his new collection of hymns “The English Hymnal”. He commissioned a tune from the then almost unknown composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. His tune, “Down Ampney” was written specially for this hymn, and named after his birthplace in Gloucestershire.

Come down, O love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part,
and o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till he become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.

  • ·         Have you ever had a strong sense of God’s presence with you? What happened and what difference did it make to you? 

Saturday, April 08, 2017


The service and activities of Holy Week and Easter help us to “walk through” the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry as we think together about his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection.

All human life is here; friendship and betrayal, courage and cowardice, suffering and love, loss and new beginnings. These are things we all experience. They are as much a part of our world as they were of Jesus’ world. Reflecting on them helps us to see our own stories, and the challenges we might face in a new way.

Why not come along to some of our Holy Week services this year to join with us in this journey of prayer and meditation?

You will be very welcome.

10 am Sunday 

Our Palm Sunday service begins with a procession from the lychgate, entering the church through the West Doors. We carry palm crosses as we walk, singing a hymn together. When we enter the church the crosses are blessed and we hear the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey a week before he died.
The crowds which shout hosanna and greet him as a king then will soon shout just as loudly for his death, and as the service goes on we begin to think about his coming death.
Instead of a sermon at this service a group of readers share in a dramatised reading the “Passion” story – the account of Jesus trial and crucifixion - this year from Matthew's Gospel.

8 pm Mon – Sat (not Thurs)

Compline is a short service (about 15 – 20 mins) each evening at 8pm in the Lady Chapel from Monday to Saturday of Holy Week (except Thurs.)
“Compline” means “completion” and it was, and is still, the last service of the day in monasteries, completing the day’s worship. We use a modern form of this ancient service of prayers, psalms, Bible readings and silence. There are no hymns, so you don’t need to worry about singing!
There is some music to listen to beforehand to help us be still, and everything you need for the service is clearly laid out in the service booklet.
It is a reflective, intimate service, ideal if you feel in need of peace and quiet!

8 pm Thursday 

Our Maundy Thursday service is an informal service of Holy Communion, recalling the Last Supper which Jesus shared with his friends on the night before he died.

We hear the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and telling them that they too must be the servants of others. We remember also his words of reassurance to them that whenever they eat bread and drink wine together in the future he will be with them, the origin the Christian practice of Holy Communion in which we share bread and wine.

The service ends as we all go into the Lady Chapel for TENEBRAE. The lights in the church are turned off, except for one at the back for safety. The only other illumination comes from 12 candles on the Lady Chapel altar.

We then hear 12 readings from the Bible, telling the story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, of his arrest and trial. After each reading one candle is blown out until we are in darkness, reminding us of the darkness which Jesus faced.

The Maundy Thursday service lasts for just over an hour.


10 -11.30 am

Craft activities for all ages to help us think about Good Friday and Easter.
We meet in church, where there will be a variety of activities exploring various Holy Week themes. Some of the activities could be quite messy! Wear old clothes!
At around 11 o’clock we break for hot cross buns and a drink, and then we finish with a short, very informal act of worship to share what we have made and thought.
Everyone is welcome, but we can’t take unaccompanied children as we aren’t set up to cater for them. (Actually mums, dads and grandparents usually have as much fun as the children anyway…!)

2.30 pm Friday 

The afternoon service on Good Friday is a mixture of traditional hymns, readings and prayers reflecting on Jesus’ crucifixion. It lasts about 30 – 45 minutes.

During the service we reflect on the meaning of Christ’s death for today and pray for those who suffer from injustice and oppression as he did. There will be a short, reflective talk during the service and a chance to light a candle as your personal prayer.

12 – 8pm Friday 

During the afternoon and early evening of Good Friday there will be a number of different reflective “stations” in church. These displays encourage us to reflect and pray on various themes relevant to Holy Week and Easter.

You can drop in at any time and go at your own pace – there will be leaflets to guide you around the stations, but the church is not manned, so you can have privacy to reflect as you want to.

Holy Communion and the lighting of the Paschal Candle
10 am  

This joyful service of thanksgiving for the Resurrection begins as we light the new Easter (or Paschal) candle, a reminder of the light of Christ which even death could not put out. We light small candles held by the congregation – we all carry that light of Christ out into the world.

6.30 pm 
A small, traditional said service, with hymns to end Easter Sunday.

Singing the Faith: Day 34: Songs for the Seasons

Thine be the glory

This hymn, which is often sung at Easter, is far more modern than we might think. It is an English translation of a French  hymn called A toi la Gloire by Edmond Budry (1854–1932) a Swiss hymn writer and Evangelical pastor. It was inspired by the death of his first wife, Marie de Vayenborg. It was translated by Richard Hoyle in 1925 with the permission of Budry for the World Student Christian Federation, an ecumenical organisation for students founded in 1895 and caught on rapidly.

Its tune was already well-known. It was composed by Handel in 1747 originally for the oratorio Joshua. It became so popular that Handel reused it in Judas Maccabeus, and Beethoven composed variations on the tune for piano and cello. It is probably the antiquity of the tune which makes the hymn seem older than it really is.  It is a splendid celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Through him life spills out into the world, touching our lives and lifting us up.
It is a hymn often sung at funerals, full of hope and reassurance, but also at weddings, and on national occasions.

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.

  • ·         What difference does the Resurrection of Jesus make to your faith? The hymn describes it as an “endless victory” – what do you think that means?

Friday, April 07, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 33: Songs for the Seasons

My song is love unknown

This beautiful, meditative song, often sung during Holy Week was originally a poem by Samuel Crossman (1624-83). Crossman was a member of the clergy of Bristol Cathedral.
This was one of a number of poems he wrote, and may have been sung as a hymn in his lifetime. It was only rediscovered, however, in the 20th Century, when it was set to music by John Ireland  just after WW1. Ireland, was organist at a number of London churches, and reputedly composed the tune for this hymn in 15 minutes over lunch. . The hymn observes the suffering and death of Jesus, and wonders how people could treat an innocent man so cruelly. It recognises that he didn’t deserve what happened, but that he willingly bore the brunt of the anger of the world out of love for humanity, love which was often “unknown” and unacknowledged.

1.My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh and die?

2.He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend,
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend.

4.Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!”
is all their breath,
And for His death
they thirst and cry.

5.Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries!
Yet they at these
Themselves displease,
and ’gainst Him rise.

6.They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He
to suffering goes,
That He His foes
from thence might free.

7.In life no house, no home,
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb,
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav'n was his home;
But mine the tomb
Wherein he lay.

8.Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend,
in Whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend.
  •    Why do you think people find it so easy to treat the innocent with cruelty? Have you ever treated someone in a way which you were ashamed of afterwards? 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 32: Songs for the Seasons

Brightest and best

This hymn, written for the feast of the Epiphany, was the first written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826) who eventually became Bishop of Calcutta. It was during his 16 years as a parish priest in Hodnet, Shropshire, however, that he wrote the hymns  he became famous for, including “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”.
There was some controversy around this hymn, and it was omitted from many hymn books originally because it is addressed to a star – the star of Bethlehem – rather than to God.
It invites us imaginatively to step into the story of the Wise men and make our own journey to Bethlehem. What will we give the infant Jesus as a gift? Not the gold, frankincense and myrrh they did, but our “heart’s adoration”. The last line reminds us that “the prayers of the poor” are worth far more than any material gift.

The tune most often used for this hymn in the Church of England is Epiphany, by Joseph Francis Thrupp (1827-67) vicar of Barrington, Cambridgeshire.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning;
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favour secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

  • ·         Have you ever tried to buy God’s favour or bargain with him? How difficult is it for you to trust that he loves you as you are?

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 31: Songs for the Seasons

Hark the herald angels sing

When Charles Wesley (1707-88) first wrote this carol it had ten verses, and he  requested that it be sung to a solemn tune. Fortunately, it was pruned drastically and altered by, among others, George Whitfield (1714-70) and Martin Madan (1726-90). Wesley’s first version had begun “Hark how all the welkin rings”, which somehow doesn’t hit the spot quite as well!
Contrary to Wesley’s instruction it was eventually set to a splendid tune by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47). It has become an indispensable part of Christmas to many people. 

It is a celebration of the Incarnation, the belief that in Christ we see God’s very essence. That essence may be “veiled in flesh” but that does not lessen its glory. The truly wonderful thing, according to Wesley, is that Jesus’ birth changes everything, giving us “second birth”. We receive a new start in his love; we are reconciled to God and to one another. His resurrection will defeat death for us all. He is the one who will show us that nothing can separate us from God’s love, and it all starts here, as “Christ is born in Bethlehem”. If we compare its theology to that of “ Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling”(Day 4), and you can see that it has come from the same pen. Like that hymn it is a wonderfully hopeful vision of the love of God which heals and renews everything it touches.

Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
'Christ is born in Bethlehem.'

Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
hail, the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace:
hail, the Sun of Righteousness.
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.

  • ·         What kind of “second birth” do you feel in need of today?

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 30: Songs for the Seasons

O come, O come, Emmanuel

This hymn, associated with Advent, is a translation of a 12th century Latin Hymn , “Veni, veni, Emmanuel”, which was itself based on a series of Latin Antiphons (short chants sung before  psalms or readings) sung one each day in the week leading up to Christmas. They are called the “O” Antiphons, because they all begin with “O”. Each one uses a different title applied to Jesus in the Bible. O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Dayspring), O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations), O Emmanuel (O God-with-us). Collectively these antiphons are a cry of longing to God. Each verse expresses different ways in which the coming of Christ brings salvation to the world.

The translation, of five of the antiphons, most often sung in English churches is by John Mason Neale, (1818-66) a prominent figure in the Oxford Movement, which wanted to restore to the C of E some of the riches of music, art and liturgy which had been lost at the Reformation. He translated a number of Latin and Greek hymns, including “All Glory, Laud and Honour” and “The Day of Resurrection”. 

The tune is based on Gregorian plainchant, arranged by Thomas Helmore (1811-90) a choirmaster and writer with a special interest in plainsong, which was being rediscovered and championed by the Oxford movement. The tune came from a book called Piae Cantiones which had been given to Neale by the then Swedish Ambassador. He passed it on to Helmore to arrange.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.

  •  What situations do you long for Christ to come into? How do you think he might come today?

There's another version, by Enya, here.

And here is one of the original O Antiphons.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 29: Songs for the Seasons

We plough the fields and scatter

In the final week of our series, we will think about hymns which mark particular seasons of the year, which can often summon up a whole raft of emotions and associations with just a few notes.

The first is associated with Harvest Festival, which in its current form as a church celebration, only dates back to 1843, when Revd Robert Hawker invited parishioners to come to his church in Morwenstow, Cornwall, for a special service to mark the end of the harvest. People had always celebrated the harvest in secular ways, often quite riotously, but it had not been celebrated in church. Harvest Festival soon became popular, even though it still has no official liturgical standing or set date.

“We plough the fields” , despite feeling so thoroughly English, is actually a translation of a German hymn, “Wir pflugen un wir streun/ Den Samen auf das Land” and was written by Mattias Claudius (1740-1815), the son of  Lutheran pastor in Reinfeld, near L├╝beck. He wrote the hymn as part of a play in 1783 about a harvest thanksgiving. It originally had 17 four line verses, but (thankfully!) was soon shortened. It was translated into English in 1861 by Jane Montgomery Campbell (1817-78), who translated many German hymns. She lived in Bovey Tracey in Devon, and died in a carriage accident while driving across Dartmoor.
The tune is by J. A.P Schultz, and is also German, first appearing with the German original version of the hymn in 1800. Schultz was Kapellmeister to Prince Henry of Prussia.

We plough the fields, and scatter
the good seed on the land;
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.

Chorus: All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

He only is the maker of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey Him,
by Him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, His children,
He gives our daily bread.

We thank Thee, then, O Father,
for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest,
our life, our health, and food;
Accept the gifts we offer,
for all Thy love imparts,
But what Thou most desirest,
our humble, thankful hearts.
  •        Is Harvest Festival outdated now that most people have little contact with the land?

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 28: Anthems - Protest and Encouragement

The National Anthem

We don’t normally think of the National Anthem as a hymn, but it is addressed to God so it definitely qualifies.
Its origins are rather uncertain. It seems to date back in some form to at least 1688, when it was sung by Stuart loyalists who opposed the rule of William of Orange, but may be older than this. Ironically, there is a possibility that it was originally a French song, “Grand Dieu, sauvez le roi”. Eventually it was adopted by the Hanoverians, perhaps in order to “overwrite” its Jacobite associations. It received its first known performance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 28 Sept 1745 as a rallying call for soldiers to join the army against the Jacobites. Other theatres and public venues then also began to include it, which may be the reason why it was still played at the end of cinema performances right up to the late 20th Century.
It began to be sung in churches during George III’s bouts of illness. By the time of Queen Victoria, it was a standard accompaniment to royal appearances. God save the Queen seems to have been the first “official” national anthem – we gave the idea to the rest of the world.
It is thought that Henry Carey (died 1743) may have written the words, though various verses have been added (and taken away) over the years. The version printed here is the one in our hymn books at Seal, Hymns Old and New. The tune is often attributed to Dr John Bull (died 1628) who was organist at Antwerp Cathedral, but there is no firm evidence for this. All in all, though, it has a surprisingly international ancestry for something so firmly associated with England.

God save our gracious Queen,
long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen.
Send her victorious,
happy and glorious,
long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

Not on this land alone,
But be God’s mercies known
On every shore.
Lord, make the nations see
That all humanity
Should form one family
The wide world o’er.

  • ·         What do you think of our National Anthem, and National Anthems generally? 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Youth mental health wellbeing session at the House in the Basement under the Stag on April 5.

Singing the Faith: Day 27: Anthems - Protest and Encouragement

Guide me O thou Great Redeemer

This is another hymn which is popular at sporting fixtures – one of the few places other than churches where people regularly sing together.

It was written by William Williams, also called Pantycelyn (1717-91). He was one of the leaders of the Welsh evangelical revival movement of the 18th century. Having originally been ordained as a deacon in the Anglican Church, he eventually became an minister in the newly founded Welsh Calvinist Methodist church. He wrote around 800 hymns, and travelled more than 100,000 miles on foot and horseback as an itinerant preacher. Williams, often known simply as Pantycelyn was famous not only as a minister and hymn writer but as a champion of Welsh language and culture. Most of his hymns were written in Welsh, including this one. The English version we sing is a fairly free translation by Peter Williams (no relation – 1722-96), but William Williams also made his own translation, and the two were often mashed together, which is why some versions say “Redeemer” while others say “Jehovah”.

The hymn’s imagery is taken from the Old Testament story of the Exodus. The Israelites wandered for  40 years in the wilderness on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, led by a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. God fed them with manna – the bread of heaven – and eventually they crossed the river Jordan into Canaan. In the hymn this is an image of our pilgrimage through life, across the “Jordan” of death and into the new life beyond death.

The tune, Cwm Rhondda, is far more recent than the words. It was written for a hymn singing festival in 1905 by John Hughes (1873-1932) It was so enthusiastically sung in the trenches during WW1 by Welsh troops that allegedly German troops in the opposing trenches learned it from them. Like the  hymn "Abide with me" (see last week's post), this hymn may have been carried from the WW1 battlefields to the post war sports fields by returning soldiers. 

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more.

Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan's side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.

  • ·         What “anxious fears” do you have about death?