Tag 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

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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

All change

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It’s a strange place to be: at home in the manse surrounded by the normal things of ministry, not sick, not on holiday but not working.

I’m beginning a Sabbatical, not unique among Methodist ministers but still rare enough that people get confused about it and wonder if I’ve been send to the subs’ bench or the naughty step.

Others of course smile broadly and declare: “Three months holiday, eh! It’s all right for some.”

Well, there’s some rest time, of course. There is also some work-related activity and we are encouraged to do something that stretches us spiritually. Sabbaticals are a gift from the Church to refresh and reinvigorate our ministries.

I’ll be working on my hymn-writing and we’ll make a couple of trips including one overseas visit that I’m really excited about, but mostly it’s about being quiet and trying to hear God.

That’s all change from the frenetic pressure of a diary and a helpful one too.

Change: One person at a time

Parliament terrace
The Thameside Terrace of the Houses of Parliament
In company with many, I passed under the scene of the attack on a tube train at the exact moment it was happening: entirely oblivious to the atrocity taking place above.
What is the proper response of people of faith? Surely not to display some kind of righteous, holy anger, but to find ways to reflect the grace of God in all aspects of our lives.

The recommended tune for singing these words to is Go Forth.

To God we come and lift our voices high;
 
children of hope, we sing his majesty!
 
Called to be faithful to the Lord of life
 
– to change the world, one person at a time.
 
In faith we build communities of Grace;
 
hold broken lives for God’s love to retrace.
 
Ours are the faces and the feet he’ll use
 
to change the world, one person at a time.
 
 
Our lives become a song of hope for all:
 
‘Jesus is Lord’ is now our clarion call!
 
God’s chosen people take it to the streets
 
to change the world, one person at a time.
 
 
Open the doors, let none be left inside:
 
send us to share with all who fear the light.
 
Praise God who calls his Church to dare to go
 
and change the world, one person at a time.
Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG http://www.songsolutions.org

Aberfan: a hymn in remembrance

disasterjpgThe next two weeks are full of difficult memories in our family. The name Aberfan has scarred the whole nation of Wales but for my wife’s family there is a deeply personal resonance as the 50th anniversary of the tragedy is marked on October 21.

My father-in-law, the Revd Irving Penberthy (pictured below), was the Methodist minister in Aberfan when the disaster happened. Many of the 50-strong Sunday School died and he spent days comforting families as they discovered what had happened.

His immediate job was to go with them into the makeshift morgue and be with parents as they found their children. Then, as the village discovered how to live again, he rallied the community to build a community centre, to sing together, to learn how to laugh once more, to rediscover faith.

dad-at-aberfandad

He now lives in Devon and is the only surviving minister from that day. He has been interviewed by a number of media outlets including the BBC and we will be taking him to Aberfan to speak at one of the 50thanniversary memorial services.

Next Sunday, Radio 4’s Sunday Worship broadcast at 8.10am will feature a short interview with Dad. On the same day, All Things Considered on BBC Wales programme at 09.03 will also be about Aberfan.

The following week, October 23, BBC TV’s Songs of Praise will be about Aberfan and will feature Dad reflecting on his experiences 50 years ago.

He has also been interviewed by a reporter for Wales Online, covering the Western Mail and South Wales Echo, so it’s likely there will be some coverage in those papers too.

On October 21 the BBC are also broadcasting a live Daily Service at 9.45-1000 on Radio 4 long wave. The Revd Roy Jenkins will be presenting.

As part of the reflecting on  everything that happened, I have written the following hymn. It will be sung at the service where Dad will speak and is being sung at the start of the service on Radio 4 on October 16 and also will close the Songs of Praise broadcast on October 23. On that occasion it will be sung by Treorchy Male Choir.

 

The tune, as fits a Welsh reflection, is Dim ond Iesu (Here is love, vast as the ocean).

God who knows our darkest moments

meets us in our brokenness:

walks beside us as a whisper,

holds our pain in his caress.

God, who leads through shadowed valleys,

where death’s bleakness dims our sight,

speaks a peace beyond our knowing,

floods our anguish with his light.

 

Far beyond our grief’s horizon,

as Creation holds its breath:

Love Divine, revealed in Jesus,

tears apart the chains of death.

Servant son and humble healer,

by your cross and life laid down

you have carried all our suff’ring

and you wear the victor’s crown.

 

Lift us up, now, risen Saviour

to the place where mercy plays,

where our broken hopes and heartache

find their healing in your gaze.

This is love, that God has saved us!

This is love, that Christ has died!

We rejoice that love has conquered

and has drawn us to your side.

Copyright 2016 © 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.

Orlando: Echo faith’s resounding note …

A friend emailed me today (thanks Debbie) to say she was planning to use one of my hymns on Sunday to help the congregation where she’s preaching reflect on the attacks on the LGBT nightclub in Orlando.

It was originally written 15 years ago, the day after 9/11, and seems to have resonated with people of faith for far too many killings since.

The crumbling mountains were the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre but also anything we assume will be a permanence in our lives and too easily gets taken away by violence.

For those who use the Methodist hymnbook Singing the Faith it is number 722, where it is set to the tune Vox Dilecti. If you are a musician, it will work with a number of DCM (8686D) tunes.

When mountains that we thought secure

lie crumbled where we stand

and pain and helplessness endure

– all from another’s hand –

Help us to bear the prophet’s mark,

to stand apart from hate

and witness to the Father’s call

for justice in the land.

 

God is our strength and refuge still

though all the earth give way;

our help at every time of ill,

the light of our dark day.

And as his people in the world

we bear the scars of grief,

but echo faith’s resounding note

– and still for justice pray.

 

There is a place of holiness

where God makes warfare cease.

There is a day of hopefulness,

a promised time of peace.

So, here today, we bear the pain

of inhumanity,

but pledge our lives to live for truth

so justice may increase

 

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

 

 

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