Holy Cross Anglican Church Hackett

Following Jesus and building community in Canberra’s Inner North

Tag: christian music

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”). 

Rev Tim Watson plays guitar with people singing

The Language of Worship

Group of people singing from a song sheet

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.

People singing in worship

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.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén