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.