This week I am exploring the second in an occasional series entitled “The Language of Worship”. At Holy Cross we are blessed with a Christian heritage of words and music written over more than 1000 years. Learning more about the songs we sing helps us to appreciate the diversity of God’s abundant creativity, in which we all share.
“All Creatures Of Our God and King“, based on the 13th century hymn Laudato sia Dio mio Signore by Francis of Assisi (written in Italian at a time when most church worship was in Latin), was written by English Anglican priest William Henry Draper for a children’s Pentecost service in about 1910. The chorale tune was published by German Jesuit Friedrich Spee in 1623, and re-harmonised for the English Hymnal in 1906 by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
“O Thou Who Camest From Above“, a hymn to the Holy Spirit, is one of 6,500(!) hymns written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), Anglican priest and co-founder of Methodism with his brother John Wesley. The tune “Hereford” was written many years later by his grandson Samuel Sebastian Wesley, an Anglican organist and composer. Charles Wesley had a remarkable gift of putting deep theological truths into memorable poetry, at a time when many Christians were illiterate: Methodists learned theology by singing it.
Geoff Bullock, an ABC cameraman from Sydney, experienced a powerful conversion in 1978 and co-founded Hills Christian Life Centre (later Hillsong) in 1983, where he wrote “The Power of Your Love (I)“. Bullock left Hillsong after burnout and marriage breakdown in the 1990s. He subsequently published “The Power of Your Love (II)“, changing the lyrics to emphasise God’s gracious and unmerited forgiveness, and this is the version we’re singing today.
Melbourne vicar Elizabeth J. Smith (b.1956) is known for her modern hymns with inclusive language. She says she wrote “God gives us a future” as a curate, partly out of frustration at congregation members who were reluctant to learn new songs! The jaunty tune “Camberwell” is by English Anglican priest John Brierley, a member of the “20th Century Church Light Music Group” in the 1950s (along with Patrick Appleford, the author of “Living Lord”).
On Sunday at church we talked about how God is behind creation and all living things. Rachel did an amazing talk on how our beautiful planet is heating up, increasing the number of species of animals that are extinct, and how we can learn from Aboriginal people to care for the earth. It got us all thinking. Will we have a planet to live on in a decade or two?
Will my children be able to survive in such an environment? How can we save what God has given us before it’s too late?
I myself have been thinking about these things already but this got me thinking deeper, because if governments are not going to do anything then it’s up to us too.
Global warming is a BIG problem! We need to start acting. There are little things to do to make a difference to stop our planet heating up more:
We can eat less meat. Even though meat is good for you (in most cases) it is adding to the pollution of our environment. I am a flexitarian which means I eat meat only sometimes. When I am older I want to be a full vegetarian, but for now, as I am growing, I need protein. Livestock farming is crashing our environment because cows and other non-native animals are contributing to severe drought which at this rate we’ll see a lot more of across the world!
We can walk places. I walk home from school about three day a week. I’m not perfect because I do get dropped off places quite a lot, but I’m trying to improve every day. Walking or bike riding helps the environment because when you use a car that uses fossil fuel petrol it adds to pollution in the air and global warming. It adds to the invisible bubble surrounding the earth. This bubble lets heat in but DOESN’T easily let it back out again. Electric cars are better.
When I’m older I’m 110% going to own an electric car. My family has a hybrid car which is pretty good. If we want to get out of this climate mess than we should have an electric (or solar) car (if we are going to have a car at all) or take public transport!
On that morning of Creation Sunday, we made craft using natural materials to celebrate nature and we wrote a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison letting him know that he is not doing enough about climate change and that it’s NOT ok. Whether he listens or not is up to him but honestly I think that deep down everyone, including him, is scared. We all just have different ways of showing it. But if are going to get out of this mess we all need to decide to stand up, fight back for the planet and not let climate change ruin something that was never ours alone to ruin.
Today I’m beginning an occasional series: “The Language of Worship”. At Holy Cross, we come from diverse backgrounds – and often have strong views about words and music! So the hymns and songs we use in worship reflect not just our diversity, but the diversity of the Kingdom of Heaven with its “treasures old and new” (Matthew 13.52). By finding out more about who actually wrote the songs we sing, and why, we learn more about the wonderful variety of the body of Christ – and more about the God we worship. “I will sing with the Spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” (1 Cor 14.15)
“All my hope on God is founded” was written by the great German Calvinist hymnwriter Joachim Leander in 1680, and translated into English in 1899 by Robert Bridges, an Anglican choirmaster and future Poet Laureate. Today we’re using the modernised version from the Australian hymn book Together in Song. The tune Michael was written (over breakfast!) by Herbert Howells in 1930, and named for his son who died tragically young.
“I heard the voice of Jesus say” is a 19th century hymn by Scottish Free Church minister Horatius Bonar, set to an old English folk song, Dives and Lazarus, which Ralph Vaughan Williams heard in a pub in the village of Kingsfold in Sussex, and published as a hymn tune in the 1906 English Hymnal.
“Give thanks” is the only published song by Henry Smith, written for a church in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1978 as a response to having become blind: “let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich …”.
Karen Lafferty was a nightclub entertainer who wrote “Seek ye first” in 1971 after attending a church bible study on Matthew 6.33, and now runs Musicians for Mission, an international ministry of Youth With A Mission based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Labyrinths are an ancient spiritual practice: for many thousands of years, people of all faiths and none have used them for prayer and meditation. In the Middle Ages Christians embraced them as a form of pilgrimage: the most famous one is in Chartres Cathedral, France. A labyrinth is not a maze: you can’t get lost! There’s just one route to follow which always leads to the centre.
The Trinity Labyrinth is unusual in having three centres: the heart, representing the Father; the cross, representing the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ; and the dove, representing the life-giving Holy Spirit. The path that links the centres represents the “divine dance” of love between Father, Son and Spirit, in which we are invited to join. The theological word for this is perichoresis, from the Greek peri-khorein (which also gives us “chorus” & “choreography”).
Unlike some labyrinths which take you on a long journey before reaching the centre, when you enter the Trinity Labyrinth you are welcomed at once to the Father’s heart, and then invited on a pilgrimage into the heart of the love of God.
Before you enter the labyrinth, you might want to reflect on a line of Scripture, hold a memory of a loved on you wish to pray for, or consider an experience from your life where you are seeking healing or forgiveness.
As you walk the path, moving slowly at your own pace and pausing at the centres, you are invited to experience the love of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who creates, redeems and sustains you at every moment.
When you return to the heart, you can either leave the labyrinth, or – if you have time – choose to continue on your pilgrimage (you might like to walk it three times). There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth.
When you leave, take a moment to thank God for what you have received.
My family attended the Holy Cross annual retreat from Saturday to Sunday this year. It was the first time any of us four had attended the retreat or traveled out to Silver Wattle. As soon as we arrived we felt welcomed, both by the other parishioners and by the tranquility of the setting.
The bright sunshine and blue skies overhead kept the children out of doors playing into the evening, blithely unconcerned as the air got colder and the hour darker.
That they were able to play freely over the terrain without us parents having to wander or wonder after them – what are they up to? Are they safe? – is probably the closest my kids have come to having a childhood like mine – one of clambering over rocks and climbing up trees without a parent in sight. I felt grateful for the setting and the people around me providing that sense of security.
I myself got to explore the surrounds – child-free! – with a walk Sunday morning up to the cross on the nearby hill and another brief stroll down to the meditative labyrinth. During both walks, seeing the vast expanse of the Australian bush and the Lake George basin I reflected a bit on God’s timeless and loving presence on this majestic planet.
On Saturday evening we had a talent show, where all the extroverts and showmen and women had a shot at entertaining the rest of us. We were an obliging lot, happy to laugh along with every skit and party trick, and to sing along with every song and dance. There were some skeptics lurking among us, though, determined to dismantle the magic behind Geoff and Jasper’s mind-reading feat – fortunately they were unsuccessful, and the mystery lives on for another year!
During the weekend Tim led several sessions where we talked about the different facets of our faith community in light of the First Corinthians passage about the church – like the body – being made of different but equally vital parts. Broadly, we discussed our church as a place of praise and worship, as a place for fellowship and outreach, and as a place to strengthen our faith through discipleship. We brainstormed as a group on ways to expand and/or integrate these various activities.
Most striking to me from these talks was the notion that Holy Cross in essence holds two services each weekend: one on a Saturday when volunteers set up Tuckerbox and open the church for the local community to access affordable food and a place to relax and recharge; and the other on a Sunday when the usual parishioners come to celebrate the Eucharist and worship together. Ideally, we would like these two groups to interact and get to know one another better…and the first opportunity for that will be grand opening of our new Tuckerbox building, on 19 October, a Saturday. I am looking forward to attending.
I can’t leave off describing the weekend without mentioning the food. Each meal was – to put it as simply as my kids would – YUMMO! We had pasta options, salad options, and a delicious trio of soups, among other choices. And the berries galore after dinner! Vegetarian and gluten-free diets were accommodated. I can imagine that A LOT of work and love went into planning these meals, preparing them at home and on site, and cleaning up afterward. A big thank you to Kirsty and her team!
And a big thanks as well to Christine for organising our weekend and to Tim for leading us in prayer, study, and worship.
We acknowledge the triune God, the Creator of heaven and earth and His ownership of all things (Psalm 24:1).
We recognise that He gave stewardship of these lands upon which we meet to the First Nations Peoples of this country (Acts 17:26). In His sovereignty, He has allowed other groups to migrate to these shores.
We acknowledge the cultures of our First Nations Peoples and are thankful for the community that we share together now.
We pay our respects to the traditional custodians of this land and their elders, both past and present, and those who are rising up to become leaders.
— Rev Neville Naden
Holy Cross Anglican Parish
Corner Antill St & Phillip Ave
(enter from Antill Street)
Tel: 0490 336 409
PO Box 164
Dickson ACT 2602, Australia