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”).