Holy Cross Anglican Church Hackett

Following Jesus and building community in Canberra’s Inner North

Category: Worship

The language of worship #2

Singers and music director with Tim Watson outside at Holy Cross St Margaret's church yard

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.

Tim Watson and music director Susan Reid at organ in front of gathered crowd

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”). 

The meaning of our Trinity Labyrinth

Congregations from St Margaret's and Holy Cross gather for the blessing of the Trinity Labyrinth

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.

Diagram showing the Holy Cross Trinity Labyrinth

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.

Download the labyrinth card with this information here (pdf – 295kb).

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