Category Archives: Hymn

Manchester: When the waves are crashing

Reflecting on the events in Manchester, it seemed that a Blues piece may be an appropriate response.

How should we be when everything we cling to is shaken? What do we cling to when all our certainties are under threat? What about when even our faith feels shaky? If we can’t hold on our only hope is that Jesus will hold us.

This hymn When the waves are crashing is in the United Methodist Church’s Worship & Song hymnal with a tune written by Jackson Henry. It was a great delight last week when Jackson and I managed to meet up in Nashville for the first time.

Waves crashing

That the world may belong …

It’s Resurrection Day, the morning we celebrate the fact that the tomb was empty. Despite all the attempts of the authorities to silence Jesus and his message of overwhelming love and hope, he had broken death’s stronghold.

On Easter morning hope was reborn. As first light dawned it became clear that darkness would not have the final word and the cross – that foul instrument of torture – became a symbol of rebirth.

Here is a hymn that reminds us of all the ways the cross still stands to call the Church to action in the world for the good of others.

It is sung to the tune for Great is thy Faithfulness.

God of our sunrise and light of the morning,
dawn on our worship, renew us today.
Come by your Spirit and fill with your passion,
set us on fire with the Gospel we pray.
 
Chorus
We are your people, the Church you have chosen.
We are a gift to the weak and the strong.
We are the shape of your love for all people.
Help us to live that the world may belong.
 
Jesus your cross is the hope of the hopeless,
guide of the blind and the staff of the lame.
Here, as the nations are grieving and limping,
Give us compassion to live for your name.
 
Jesus your cross is the world’s consolation,
object of pain yet the strength of the weak.
Here, as we struggle for peace and for meaning
Jesus we ask for your courage to speak.
 
Jesus your cross is the birthplace of justice,
cloth for the naked, refreshment for thirst.
Here, as we seek ways to live out the Gospel,
May we repent of our need to be first.
 
Jesus your cross is the mystery that beckons:
drawing us close till we see face to face,
sharing your love with the world in its turmoil,
blessing with your uncontrollable grace.
Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

Have you heard God’s voice?

I have been massively encouraged – and challenged – today by Jacqueline Jones’ hymn Have You Heard God’s Voice? The deaths of LGBT clubbers in Orlando and of Jo Cox brought the final verse into stark relief:

Will you watch the news with the eyes of faith
and believe it could be different?
Will you share your views using words of grace?
Will you leave a thoughtful imprint?
In two services we reflected on the call of Romans 12: 1-21, especially vv17-18: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

The challenge of living well “as far as it depends on you” in an increasingly angry country is hard. The EU Referendum debate has become more and more bitter and, some would say, has given rise to the acts of violence which led to Jo Cox’s death.

 How do God’s people represent Christ while still giving space for proper disagreement?

 How do we avoid being dragged into the demeaning tittle-tattle that so easily moves from grumbling to character assassination?

 How do we slip the Christlike phrases into conversations with our friends and neighbours?

 The hymn’s lyrics say:

Will you use your voice; will you not sit down
when the multitudes are silent?
Will you make a choice to stand your ground
when the crowds are turning violent?

It was one of those times when the hymn-writer’s craft enabled a congregation to move beyond silence into expressing hope that could not otherwise have been articulated.

A Maundy Thursday hymn

2016-02-09 17.02.20.jpgOn St Patrick’s day, here is a Maundy Thursday hymn that can be sung to the tune St Patrick. I’m posting it early for those who may be planning their Holy Week services already.

What quality of love is this

that washes a betrayer’s feet?

What kind of majesty, a king

who kneels before a friend’s deceit?

It is a love for those, like me

who know of grace but choose to sin;

a love that waits until I must

return to Calvary again.

 

What quality of ruler, this

who lays aside his royal right?

What kind of power which takes a towel

and stoops to lift our blinkered sight?

This is the ruler of all realms

and yet the one who calls me friend;

the one who, knowing what would come,

still chose to love me to the end.

 

What quality of Saviour comes

to bring salvation by his death?

What kind of battle-plan to hang

forsaken, beaten and bereft?

This is the Saviour who, for me,

endured the cross with all its shame;

who, dying for a world, can still

remember and call out my name.

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

A hymn for Methodist Covenant services

This time of the year in the UK is when many Methodist churches hold their Covenant services: to celebrate God’s constant faithfulness and pledge their own lives in God’s service.

I wrote the following hymn some years ago and the words seem appropriate for the service.

It is best sung to the tune Morgenlied which was set in our 1932 hymnbook to the Harvest hymn Now the year is crowned with blessing.

Lord of ages past remembering
Lord of ages yet to be.
Hope of every generation,
yours the grace that sets us free.
Thorn and cross your battle tokens
symbols of a life laid down,
as the hope of all the nations
dies to claim us for his own.

So for this our generation
hear us as we bow the knee.
Shape our witness to our neighbour,
send your Spirit, set us free!

For the lives where hope lies bleeding,
for the homes where love has died,
for the victims of injustice,
raise, O Lord, a battle cry.
Bread and wine your passion’s tokens,
symbols still of hope restored.
In the sacrament we offer
we proclaim our dying Lord.

So for this our generation …

Make your Church a pilgrim people,
challenge our complacent ease.
Then, because your truth disturbs us,
Father, bring us to our knees.
Lives renewed your gospel tokens
symbols of the Spirit’s call.
As the world that you have ransomed
hears the truth: You died for all.

So for this our generation …

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG

Remembering the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami

Some preachers will be looking beyond Christmas to Sunday, 28 December, and may be planning to mark the 10th anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami which devastated so many families and communities in the Pacific region.

The following hymn was written in the days immediately following the tsunami and I felt privileged to be contacted by Christians in the region who said that it had been helpful for them to use as they struggled to cope with both the event and its aftermath.

It was one of those occasions when the cheap throwaway idea that the only response is to praise God sounds so hollow. Part of the reality of being human is to be able to share the pain of others, as Christ did, and yet hold on to faith. That’s what gave the last lines of this hymn their authenticity for me: to whom else would we turn if not Jesus Christ?

When innocence is fractured

by nature’s shifting force,

and paradise is ruptured

as life is swept off course,

we come to pray our questions,

we come to share our grief;

in this, our act of worship,

to say that we believe.

 

As headlines overwhelm us

and make us close our minds;

as news from distant islands

brings death before our eyes

we seek a hope to cling to,

a refuge to embrace;

lest in the grip of knowing

we lose our hold on grace.

 

How dare we speak of heaven

made human for our sakes,

or preach a loving Father

when seas and mountains quake?

We dare because our story

speaks of a love that came

to bear the cost of dying

and still would do the same.

 

In Christ our souls take refuge,

though not to hide from truth:

we face each anguished question

with faith, if not with proof.

We hear his wistful question:

“And will you leave me too?”

Though all the world should crumble,

We hope, O Christ, in you.

Recommended tune: Aurelia

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

Waiting in hope … a hymn for Advent

For preachers and worship leaders who are beginning to think about Advent services, here is a hymn which may prove useful.

I wrote it with the tune Deep Harmony in my mind, but the editor of Singingthefaithplus suggests Niagara as a more upbeat option. O Waly Waly is another lovely Celtic tune which would add a different dimension to the text.

 

We wait in hope for hope to come:

promised of old; the righteous one.

Help us to watch, expect and pray

and then to greet Messiah’s day.

 

We read the story of your plan:

this world redeemed by heaven’s Son.

Grace breaks upon the present time;

mercy and hope through David’s line.

 

We hear the prophet’s voice ring clear:

‘changed hearts and lives are needed here’.

So, when the Spirit fires your Church,

make us a sign for all who search.

 

We go to share this great Good News:

heirs of the promise – we will choose

to live in hope that all may sing

praises to Christ, the infant king.

 

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG http://www.songsolutions.org

Platinum party

Jim Linwood's picture inside the cathedral.
Jim Linwood’s picture inside the cathedral.

This week I had the privilege of being able to premiere one of my hymns with a packed congregation at the stunning Coventry Cathedral.

We were there to celebrate the Platinum (70th) anniversary of Methodist Homes (MHA) and I had been asked to write a hymn to mark the event.

MHA is a charity providing care, accommodation and support services for older people throughout Britain.  Around 16,000 people are cared for:

5,000 older people living in care homes – residential, nursing and specialist dementia care;
2,000 older people living independently – in a range of purpose-built apartments with flexible support and personalised care
9,000 older people supported via live at home services in the community.

MHA’s mission is to improve the quality of life for older people, inspired by Christian concern.

The service included The Seven Ages of MHA – a trot through the organisation’s history – and a really appropriate sermon from their patron, Baroness the Revd Kathleen Richardson.

The service ended with singing the anniversary hymn and a cathedral full of Methodists singing to the tune Calon Lân is a great sound. I had been asked to provide a hymn that included recognition of MHA’s specialism – care of older people – but was a hymn of confidence in God. The text is:

Timeless God, you hold our story:

The old cathedral
The old cathedral
weave our dreams into your plan.
Make your Church a living witness
to the work that Christ began.
 
Come the day that love has conquered,
and the hosts of heaven sing,
may our lives on earth have echoed:
‘God is Lord and Christ is King’.
 
Gracious God, you offer wisdom
far beyond our human minds.
Yet you trust us, in our weakness,
to bring insight to the blind.
 
Come the day …
 
When our human powers falter
keep us focused on your call.
Strengthen us to share the message
of abundant life for all.
 
Come the day …
 
God eternal, hear our longing
to be heralds of your grace:
till Creation’s restless longing
finds its peace in your embrace.
 
Come the day …
Gareth Hill. Copyright © 2013 Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions Copycare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield TN22 1QG http://www.songsolutions.org