Bulletin 237 Volume 17 No4 October 2003

The Hymn Society Bulletin
October 2003

hsb237 Christchurch University College Canterbury

Christchurch University College Canterbury


Obituary: Caryl Micklem 1925-2003

by David Goodall
by Derek C. Hodgson

Conference 2003 at Canterbury by Derrick and Beryl Baker

Inclusive Geography by Dr Bernard Massey

Hymns for an Itinerant Preacher by Michael Haighton


Composing Music for Worship ed. S. Darlington and A. Kreider Reviewd by John Hough
Jubilate, Everybody: the Story of Jubilate Hymns by M. Saward Reviewd by Dr Bernard Massey

Anniversaries of 2004


Fishes and Freedom by Christopher Idle


Timothy Dudley-Smith
M. Haighton
B.D. West
M. Jones


Among our contributors

Obituary: Caryl Micklem 1925-2003 by David Goodall and Derek C. Hodgson
By David Goodall
Thomas Caryl Micklem, who died on 2 June this year, began life in Oxford, and ended his pre-retirement career there. By birth, upbringing and temperament he was profoundly influenced by its traditions, though with the exception of his final pastorate his best achievements were made elsewhere.

His father Romilly had been an undergraduate at New College Oxford, and then a student for the Congregational ministry at Mansfield College where he became Chaplain and Tutor in 1922. Caryl was bom on 1 August 1925; and his boyhood up to the age of 13 was spent in the shadow of the College; its influence was reinforced by the appointment of his uncle Nathaniel as Principal in 1933. Schooling at the Congregationalist Mill Hill School (whose former headmaster, Sir John McClure, had been chairman of the editorial committee for the 1916 Congregational Hymnary) continued Caryl’s congregational upbringing; and he returned to Oxford to read Classical Mods, and then English at New College, before enrolling in 1948 at Mansfield for a theology degree course, intending to complete the full three-year post- graduate ordination studies.

His Mansfield course was interrupted, however, by his father’s continued ill-health. In 1949 Romilly had moved to Oundle; but it soon proved necessary for Caryl to join his father and share the pastoral care of the Congregational Church there. As a graduate he was eligible for ordination as a Congregational Evangelist in what was then known as ‘List B\ while continuing part-time studies at Mansfield. In 1951 he qualified for full accreditation as a Congregational minister, and in 1953 moved to Banstead, Surrey, for the first of his three major pastorates in sole charge.

His ministerial career continued throughout in the Congregational Church, later in the United Reformed Church, with pastorates at Allen Street, Kensington (1958-78, from c.1972 shared with the Australian Presbyterian minister, Glyn Miller, and from 1974 with additional responsibility for the URC at Fulham); and finally at St Coluniba’s, Oxford. The last-named church, formerly the base of the Church of Scotland university chaplaincy in Oxford, allowed Caryl to exercise his many sympathies and pastoral gifts in what was a significant home-coming.

Like several of his younger Oxford contemporaries, he was closely involved in the critical re-examination of the language of Christian worship which began in the 1950s and 1960s. Together with John Marsh (who had been one of Caryl’s tutors), his father had collaborated with John Huxtablc and James Todd to produce a Book of Public Worship (OUP 1948) which influenced many Congregational ministers of the time. In his turn, Caryl presided over a group of ministers of a later generation, editing the collection published in 1967 as Contemporary’ Prayers for Public Worship (SCM Press), which was followed by two further collections. The editorial Introduction to the 1967 book, though not explicitly attributed to him, clearly bears the marks of his thinking; it is a historically valuable statement of the problems of language in worship, of which many Christians were then becoming conscious, and a remarkably up-to-date indication of the ways in which these would be tackled by a succeeding generation of worship-leaders and hymn-writers.

It was in hymn-writing, however, that his gifts for scholarship and felicitous language were conspicuously developed. His interest in hymnody, which would have been a natural consequence of his father’s and his uncle’s example, was profoundly influenced by Erik Routley, who had been appointed Tutor, Chaplain and Organist at Mansfield College in the year in which Caryl began his theological course, but whom Caryl had come to know six years earlier when Erik was still a student. Caryl’s debt to Erik, and the inspiration which Erik provided in matters of word and music, are movingly described in the opening chapter, written by Caryl, of Duty and Delight: Routley Remembered (Hope/Canterbury Press, 1985); and its personal resonances will be shared by many people who knew one but not the other.

Caryl’s first incursion into hymn composition seems to have been with music rather than words. Congregational Praise was still in preparation when Caryl began his Mansfield course; but Erik (who was Minutes Secretary to the Editorial Committee as well as a member of the Music Committee) had already invited Caryl to compose two tunes for words which the compilers wished to include (CP 198 and 699). Many more tunes followed — HymnQuest lists 24 published tunes, including nine to his own words — though it is perhaps for his hymn words that he will be best remembered.

He did not participate directly in the ‘Dunblane consultations’ (notwithstanding Ian Fraser’s impression to the contrary — see Bulletin 217, p. 181), and neither of the two Dunblane Praises collections (1965 and 1967) includes his work — unless any of the anonymous items in the first volume may reflect his contributions. In the resulting developments in hymnody, rightly called an ‘explosion’, however, Caryl was decidedly active; in Duty and Delight he describes the meetings and discussions which began at his manse in Kensington and continued to foster the composition of new hymns.

In 1967 he became a member of a committee of the Congregational Union concerned with liturgy, which subsequently evolved into the Doctrine and Worship committee of the United Reformed Church. It was natural for him to join the editorial committee for the first hymn-book publication of the URC: the New Church Praise (1975) supplement to the existing hymn-books of the Congregational and Presbyterian churches. Eight texts and twelve of his tunes were included in that collection; four of the texts and three of the tunes have been taken into books of other denominations.

With the decision by the URC to prepare a new main hymn-book, Caryl joined the editorial committee for Rejoice and Sing, and became Convener of the Music sub- committee, both guiding the work of the latter and representing its choices to the main editorial committee which made final decisions. Many of the music arrangements in the final book owe much to his detailed work; and his hand-written music MSS formed a substantial part of the material eventually submitted to the printers.

During the four years of editorial preparation of RS, there were several instances of new music being required, at short notice, for texts requested by the main committee; and two of Caryl’s most attractive melodies were composed for this purpose: DRYDEN place, for a late editorial request for an all-age Easter hymn which prompted his ‘Too early for the blackbird’ (RS 249); and BABLOCK HYTHE, for W.W. How’s ‘It is a thing most wonderful’. This last commission arose from a tiresome recommendation of the words committee to rearrange Bishop How’s quatrains into three eight-line verses, to which Caryl responded with characteristic imagination and grace. But in addition to his significant input, he contributed much to the selecting and editing of texts and to fresh writing where needed. Not many hymn-writers have successfully paraphrased 1 Corinthians 13, the simplicity of which conceals the profoundest theological insights into God’s nature; but Caryl’s version (RS 307) fully deserves its place alongside the more familiar one by Christopher Wordsworth.

Of Caryl’s involvement with the Hymn Society, and of the Society’s debt to him, many of our members will need no reminder. He, and frequently his wife Ruth also, were regular attenders at the annual conference, and his chairmanship covered a lively period of the Society’s affairs from 1993 to 1999. He was a familiar contributor to the Bulletin with articles, reviews and correspondence; and on at least three occasions he introduced the hymns at the annual conference Act of Praise.

For many years he was a member of the Council of the RSCM and he served the URC Musicians Guild as chaplain, chairman and finally president. In 1958 he was appointed Free Church Religious Adviser to the Independent Television company ATV and frequently broadcast both on ITV and BBC radio. He also somehow found time to serve as a magistrate in both London and Oxford.

He will be known widely, among those whose interest is in hymns and worship, both verbal and musical, for his formative contribution to the liturgy of the twentieth- century Church and into the twenty-first. But these activities were the public face of a more profound and creative ministry, exercised in pastoral care at Oundle, Banstead, Kensington and finally Oxford. It was fitting that for his last official charge he came home to the city and university where his family roots were so strong.

His final retirement to Pocklington enabled him, with Ruth and one or more of his children, to enjoy some of the leisure usually denied to ministers in active service. He had planned to take part in August in a celebration of hymns arranged by his family and church friends, but it is unlikely that in the most important sense he would not have been present. His funeral service had included one of his best-known hymns, ‘Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart’, whose line ‘give…the strength to finish what I start’ has always haunted this contributor and must have been his constant prayer also. But he knew also the grounds for confident faith, typified in a hymn he chose for his father’s memorial service at Mansfield, and echoed by many who ‘…wrestled hard, as we do now, with sins and doubts and fears…

I ask them whence their victory came;
they, with united breath,
ascribe their conquest to the Lamb,
their triumph to his death.’

David Goodall

By Derek C. Hodgson
There was very much a family atmosphere pervading Caryl’s funeral on Tuesday 10 June. The family first assembled for Caryl’s cremation at which the hymn ‘Come, my way, my truth, my life’ by George Herbert was sung to the tune TUNBRIDGE (NEH 481). They then joined the many friends and acquaintances who had gathered in the Parish Church of Pocklington. This was where Caryl and Ruth had retired thirteen years ago, soon to be followed by their daughter Judith and son-in-law Michael who is the organist at the Parish Church. Some of the music and words for the service were written by Caryl; all the hymns and readings were chosen by members of the family. Organ music before and after the service was by J.S. Bach: Largo from the Sonata No.5 and the Prelude and Fugue in B minor.

Two of Caryl’s own hymns were chosen: ‘We praise you. Lord, for all that’s true and pure, (RS 516) and (probably his most widely known) ‘Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart’ (RS 497). Watts’s ‘My God, my king, thy various praise’ (RS 115) and Bridges’s version of ‘Happy are they, they that love God’ (NEH 369) were also sung.

Caryl’s place in the Pocklington Singers was acknowledged in the singing by their leading soprano of ‘Pie Jesu’ from Fauré’s Requiem, accompanied by Michael. Other Singers and a member of the Hymn Society provided a four-part choir group together with one or two friends of the family. The poem ‘Go and open the door’ (Miroslav Holub) was read by the Vicar, the Revd Chris Simmons, who was officiating and who gave the address.

Opposite the parish church is one of those old coaching inns which adorn this agricultural area of countless centuries’ civilization where the widespread nature of the countryside was balanced by the widespread hospitality offered to us by Caryl and Ruth’s family — four daughters, one son, and ten grandchildren. This added, on our departure, another part of the wider sense of life which the day had given us.

On the following Saturday (14 June) was the summer concert of the Pocklington Singers (chiefly Schubert’s Mass in A flat) and we were able to dedicate this performance to Caryl’s memory.

The celebration in Pocklington Parish Church of Caryl’s contributions to hymnody went ahead as planned on 3 August. The items were introduced by the vicar, the Revd Chris Simmons, and the organist was Caryl’s son-in-law Michael Cooper.

An ad hoc choral group of 16 sang as anthems ‘No one has ever seen God’ (RS 395) and ‘Spirit of joyfulness, come to my heart’. The latter was Caryl’s response to the tune STRADSETT which had been composed by Francis Jackson to celebrate his own 80th birthday in 1997 and he had asked Caryl to provide some words for its unusual metre. (It has been published by OUP for the Church Music Society.)

Caryl’s grandchildren sang ‘Father, we thank you’ (RS 110). Other hymns (all but three with tunes by Caryl) were
O King, enthroned on high (tr. J. Brownlie), RS 296
Awake from sleep, NCP 6
My soul, repeat his praise (Watts) RS 716
We praise you, Lord, for all that’s true and pure, RS 516
We are your people (B. Wren), RS 483i
Christ, burning past all suns (I. Fraser), NCP 8
Don’t wait for an angel, Faith, Folk and Festivity 8
Lord, you give to us the precious gift of life (S. Orchard), NCP 61
Thanks be to God, whose Church on earth (TRURO), RS 582
As I pass you on the pavement (by daughter Alison with Caryl’s tune BRIM HILL)
It is a thing most wonderful (W. W. How), RS 503
Though gifts of knowledge and of tongues (SHEPHERD’S PIPES), RS 307
Too early for the blackbird, RS 249
Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart, RS 497
and a new hymn for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2003:
As once in primal darkness God spoke and there was light (LLANGLOFFAN, RS 604)

Derek C. Hodgson

Conference 2003 at Canterbury by Derrick and Beryl Baker
Travelling to Christ Church University College Canterbury on a warm, sunny day, some of us arriving by road began to wonder whether the city’s traffic congestion indicated phenomenal conference attendance, with everyone arriving at once. Unfortunately it resulted in some missing the welcome cup of tea at 4 p.m.

However, the South African hymn of praise ‘Amen Siakudumisa’ was a fitting start both to the Conference and to Geoffrey Weaver’s talk, ‘Let all the world in ever)’ corner sing’. This indeed got us all singing, and, in the course of the lecture, joining in hymns and songs from around the world demonstrated Geoffrey Weaver’s main point that singing establishes and encourages community. He referred to the work of John Bell and others in introducing world praise, particularly a recent book by Michael Horne, and in so doing modestly failed to mention his own publications arising out of his global travels.

In the evening Dean John Arnold, recently retired from Durham Cathedral, and an accomplished linguist, was our second speaker. His lecture, ‘Solemn and Strange Music’, commenced with a summary of biblical references to music from the Song of Moses (Exod. 15) to St Paul’s ‘psalms and spiritual songs’ (Col.3). Dean Arnold then ranged over various topics with an autobiographical basis. There were words of wisdom on hymns for children, on translations and hymn-books, with particular reference to Cantate Domino, with which he had been associated. The overall impression left by this lecture was of spirituality, philosophy and subtle humour.

The next morning another linguist, our member Marcus Wells, discussed with us the problems of translation, not only of finding linguistic equivalents but of arranging the result in acceptable metre, with possibly a rhyme scheme. His examples ranged through the whole gamut of hymnody. There was, for example, reference to the work of Catherine Winkworth, not always agreeing with the remarks of Dean Arnold earlier. Marcus led us through hymns in many languages, including ‘Abide with me’ in Arabic, ‘Infant Holy’ in Polish and other examples in Greek and German, before concluding in his adopted tongue, Welsh. Conference was privileged to enjoy the positive erudition of Marcus Wells and his startlingly competent linguistic skills.

The second lecture on Wednesday morning was by Professor K. Furusawa from Japan. He obligingly provided us with a printed resume of his lecture, together with a a map and examples of hymns, one dating from 1895, two from 1930. The Professor outlined the history of religions in Japan from earliest times. Christianity was introduced by the Basque Jesuit missionary, St Francis Xavier, in 1549. Following suppression in 1597 there were 26 martyrs in Nagasaki alone. Frontiers were not again opened until 1858 and the first church was established in 1872. Christians now account for 1% of the population of Japan as a whole. The early hymn-books were of ‘sacred songs’ rather than ‘hymns’, many being ‘Haiku’ or ‘Waka’. The example of the Haiku (in 17 syllables, 5+7+5) puzzled many conference members, being a statement of the Prodigal Son story without a resolution. Many of the recent hymn- books in Japan arc ecumenical, and many of the contents are translations from European languages. The Professor, who had studied in Cambridge, and is an organist, brought greetings from our sister society in Japan. The members of conference were charmed to have had the benefit of Professor Furusawa’s learning and his company and that of his gracious wife.

Following an afternoon in which members could sample the delights of Canterbury by themselves, the early evening programme was a ‘Short Metre’ session with five ten-minute talks. John Matthews explained the history of various versions of ‘The Red Flag’ or ‘O Tannenbaum’. Gordon Taylor discussed congregational singing in the Salvation Army (the eclipse of a tradition) and David Lee from Durham offered projections concerning hymn tunes for the future. Malcolm Sturgess discussed hymns of worth for a lifetime, a personal testament. Finally, Fred Kaan introduced a new version of his hymn beginning ‘Put peace into each other’s hands’. The original first three verses are now followed by two new ones; the whole, entitled ‘Let hands speak out’, is intended for multi-faith meetings. It has been particularly well received in Canada where a composer, Ron Klusmeier, has furnished a special tune.

After dinner we went across to the Cathedral for a public Festival of Hymns. The Cathedral quire was filled by conference members plus an unusually large volunteer choir that Valerie Ruddle, with her customary prodigious enthusiasm, had assembled, plus some members of the public. The eleven hymns were introduced by our Executive President, Alan Gaunt; Valerie Ruddle conducted the choir and, at the Cathedral organ, Martin Ellis provided the accompaniments. [A fuller account of the occasion, together with a copy of the hymn booklet used, will come with the next issue of the Bulletin.]

The final lecture of the conference was given by Professor Donald Allchin about the hymns of the Danish theologian, historian, poet and educator, N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783- 1872). The Professor first gave us a brief outline of the life of Grundtvig, a national hero in Denmark on account of, among other things, his promotion of adult education. He wrote many hymns. Some of these appear as literal prose translations in a book about Grundtvig’s life and work by A.M. Allchin. From these Alan Gaunt has produced a set of metrical hymns. Members were invited to sing four of these to the tunes used in Denmark for the Grundtvig originals, some in unusual metres which Alan Gaunt has successfully followed.

The final session of the conference was the Society’s Annual General Meeting. Necessary business matters were efficiently dealt with and warm thanks were expressed to the many people who had contributed to the success of the conference. Not least among these was Geoffrey Wrayford who, on his impending retirement to a hideaway in South Devon, was giving up the office of secretary which he had held with distinction for six years. In his place we welcome Robert Canham, a URC minister from Lancaster, who had shown his mettle in serving as chaplain to last year’s conference in Leicester.

It was announced, to evident general approval, that the 2004 conference would be from 20 to 22 July in Edinburgh.
The Conference Chaplain, the Revd Dr Janet Wootton, who conducted morning and evening prayers and the conference eucharist in the college chapel, was undeterred by the use of a piano when the electronic organ developed a cipher. The lively and original services were based on the songs of Moses, Deborah and Barak, and Hannah.

We were well housed in Christ Church University College, within easy walking distance of the Cathedral. The food and service provided were excellent, even if the cafeteria system proved confusing at first. Another successful conference ended — seemingly at the seaside, if the noisy gulls could be believed, not only at 4 a.m., but as we walked through the pleasant campus in the sunshine.

Derrick and Beryl Baker

Inclusive Geography by Dr Bernard Massey
Hymn writers nowadays can hardly be unaware of concerns that the words and phrases they use should not be thought to exclude particular groups of people.

Gender-specific terms are obviously troublesome. For instance, ‘men’, if meaning human beings in general, should not appear to exclude women; neither should ‘brothers’ seem to ignore sisters. The old joke that ‘the male embraces the female’ is no longer reckoned adequate excuse for unnecessarily male-dominated language. Writers need to be alive also to the sensibilities of those with various disabilities or different skin colour — or, even, as we noted in Bulletin 219, of handedness.

Aside from language, problems may arise when a hymn suitable for a certain group of people proves to be unsuitable for others. An obvious instance is when Christmas carols or other seasonal pieces written from the perspective of the northern hemisphere are exported south of the equator where Christmas is celebrated at the height of summer. One can hardly expect ‘In the bleak midwinter’ to have quite the same resonance in the southern hemisphere as in the north — though even here the climatic conditions to which Christina Rossetti alludes suggest Siberia rather than Bethlehem. Also less apt in the southern hemisphere are hymns that associate Easter with springtime.

But geographical concerns do not stop there. Our member Graham Deans, minister of the Church of Scotland parish of South Ronaldsay and Burray in Orkney, writes thus:

Dear Bernard,

A recent experience has led me to challenge the accuracy of a statement made in one of our most familiar and best-loved hymns.

The occasion was an unusual one for the hymn concerned: the inter-Church wedding of an Orcadian bride and an Australian groom. It was scheduled to begin at 5.00 p.m. on a Saturday evening in February, and, as it was realized that the end of the ceremony would coincide with the fall of darkness, the bride’s family specially requested that the service should conclude with the singing of John Ellerton’s hymn, The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended’.

Wishing to focus the congregation’s attention on the groom’s family, who were not able to make the long trip from Australia to the UK, the bride’s parents were particularly anxious to make them feel included in everybody’s thoughts, and the words from the hymn that would activate such sentiments, and send our thoughts and prayers ‘o’er each continent and island’, were those which affirm that

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky.

But what struck me as we sang the hymn was the fact that the said sun which was duly waking our Antipodean absentees was actually doing so ’neath the eastern sky. Our western counterparts at that point in time would have already completed the best part of their morning’s labours; and while as we left the church, eagerly awaiting the forthcoming celebratory evening meal, they would have been expecting their rapidly approaching lunch break.

The questions that therefore arise in my mind are why has Ellerton’s error never been noticed before, and how has it managed to escape the attention of hymnal editorial committees for so long? Maybe the rising sun has yet to awaken us to see the light!

Ellerton’s hymn has certainly captured the public imagination, at any rate in Britain, not least because of its vivid image of the unbroken succession of praise ‘as earth rolls onward’. (And, notwithstanding the derision of musical snobs, the now inevitable tune ST CLEMENT, with its triple time and no harmonic modulation to speak of, contributes significantly to the picture of a perpetually rotating globe.) The same sun that, at the end of the day, disappears below our horizon, will, at the same moment, be coming into view somewhere else. But is that somewhere else east or west of us?

Never mind Kipling’s dictum that ‘East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet’. Since the earth is round they do meet. On that score, then, Ellerton could have referred to ‘eastern sky’ or ‘western sky’ with equal truth. Indeed, he could have dodged Mr Deans’s difficulty by simply writing ‘another sky’; however, he would thereby have lost the implication of the earth’s rotation about its north-south axis.

It is worth considering first the particular circumstance that gave rise to Graham Deans’s puzzlement. In, say, mid-February the day-length (sunrise to sunset) at the latitude of Orkney (about 59°N) is roughly 9.5 hours. This corresponds to 360° x 9.5/24 = 142.5° of earth’s rotation. So, when the sun was setting in Orkney, it was rising at a position 142.5° of longitude further west — that is, close to the southern coast of Alaska. There might not have been many brethren to be wakened in that sparsely populated region but at any rate Ellerton’s image holds good for that Orkney wedding day.

However, in June the Orcadian day-length increases to about 17.5 hours; to find a sunrise corresponding to the sunset in Orkney one would then need to go more than 180° westwards. Moreover, if we move north of the Arctic circle (‘the land of the midnight sun’) we find that in summer the sun neither rises nor sets. (A similar phenomenon occurs in the Antarctic but that is hardly of hymnological concern — unless penguins are reckoned honorary brethren.)

In the hymn’s opening stanza Ellerton looked back to ‘our morning hymns’, i.e. earlier on the same day, not to tomorrow’s breakfast. So he naturally referred to the western sky. One faces west to see the setting sun; it would be ludicrous to turn one’s back on it to consider sunrise in an eastern sky. Besides, the sunrise to be found by going east would be that not on the same day but on the next.

Ellerton never lived more than a few degrees from what is now known as the Greenwich meridian. This doubtless gave him a decidedly Anglo-centric view of geography. To him the western sky would have been that between the Greenwich meridian and 180°W, the eastern sky that from 0° to 180°E. But what do our brethren (and sisters) in, for example, Alaska understand by ‘the western sky’? How far west would they consider that sky to extend? Just as far as the International Date Line? Or beyond that and into tomorrow?

(If this hymn is sung by Alaskans, it is probably from US hymnals — many of which nowadays omit the sunrise-sunset stanza, though more I dare say to avoid the bothersome word ‘brethren’ than for reasons of scientific rigour.)
I think we must conclude, not that Ellerton was in error, but that his vision of the whole world offering relays of praise is compromised by constraints of geography. On strictly scientific criteria, some people will be excluded from the imagery, certainly whenever their day-length exceeds twelve hours. Others might feel left out because they have little ‘western sky’. And sometimes our sunset will correspond to sunrise over, say, the Pacific ocean, where, apart possibly from an occasional boat, there are no brethren or sisters to wake.

Yet, for all that, we can surely allow Ellerton some poetic licence. After all, he made splendid use of it.

Dr Bernard Massey

Hymns for an Itinerant Preacher by Michael Haighton
To me, a Free Church Minister, hymns are very important, especially in putting together an order of service. As a member of the Hymn Society, I have two pet hates, the hymn/prayer ‘sandwich’ which is neither original nor very interesting, and the growing number of preachers and ministers who pick the same old hymns over and over again, either because they are popular, or they are the favourites of the one conducting worship.

I’m different. I often cause a stir as the church has to go rummaging through cupboards to get the old hymn-books almost discarded, or put up the OHP so that I can have a hymn to fit my service theme on the screen. It is not that I choose really archaic hymns, as they have to make sense to be sung, but I do like to have a good breadth and depth of hymns. Recently in a church where I had them dusting down older books, the organist said, ‘well we haven’t sung some of these for years, but it does make a real change from singing “Great is Thy faithfulness”, which we seem to sing most weeks.’

Being able to play the organ, I am careful with my choice of hymns and metres. Do they fit the sense of the words, and are they known? A new tune is usually all right, but not to begin or end the time of worship. I also try to make sure that there are not too many heavy hymns. I once played at an Anglican Church where the vicar had picked the hymns. The first was ‘The God of Abraham praise’ (8 verses), the second ‘O Jesus, I have promised’ (6 verses), and the third ‘Just as I am’ (7 verses). He wasn’t musical and was amazed when I pointed out to him that in the first 20-30 minutes of the service the small congregation would have to battle through 21 verses. He eventually saw sense and did cut out a few verses!

Being a regular leader of worship I like to pick my own hymns and choruses. For me this begins with being open to the Holy Spirit as He leads me to the theme — whether chosen by the lectionary, the church itself or what I believe is right for that time. Here is one example. A Baptist Church asked me to stand in for their minister who had been taken ill, and please would I give them a sermon on the Passover. I was given some information via a leaflet they would be studying later on at their housegroup. I duly prepared, picking relevant hymns, readings and so on. The service was to include Communion (which of course is a nice link with the Passover). I remembered that in Baptist Praise and Worship there was a communion hymn all about the Passover with the first line ‘Passover God, we remember your faithfulness’, and of course to my mind that was perfect.

I spend some time in prayer, because most of my preaching engagements are in Free Churches that don’t use a set liturgy or order of service. Just occasionally one is suggested and it tends to be the hymn/prayer sandwich, so it is usually hastily rearranged as the Lord directs me.

Usually I begin the service with a hymn of praise or worship — one that, if possible, fits my theme. Sometimes I might have had an Introit chorus such as ‘Open our eyes, Lord’, followed by a prayer of Invocation. In the morning services the second hymn may well be something suitable for young people — a newer hymn or chorus, or an older one so long as it fitted with the talk to the children, and the scripture verses to go with it. At some point, morning or evening, there may well be some open worship, that may include a testimony and open praise prayers, probably surrounded or interspersed with hymns or modem worship songs.

Generally in the middle of the act of worship (although sometimes after the sermon) there are prayers of intercession, and a suitable hymn to begin or end those prayers may be chosen. Sometimes there is a sung response — e.g. ‘O Lord, hear my prayer’ or ‘Hear my cry, O Lord’. I may well use a verse or verses of a hymn as a basis of these intercessions, such as Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn ‘Lord, for the years’, or Alan Gaunt’s ‘We pray for peace’.

A hymn may be read as a meditation, or used to end some quiet meditation on a theme, if suitable. For example, a few weeks ago I was preaching on Peter and his commission by the Living Christ ‘Feed my sheep’. In between the words of meditation we sang ‘The Galilean fishers toil’ (MHB 509) as it refers to Peter twice.

For me, the Bible as the Word of God is very important, and hymns and readings are strongly linked, so the whole congregation is led forward in the ‘Liturgy’. Therefore the hymns prior to and after the sermon must link in what the sermon is saying. Usually the final hymn calls for a commitment, or gives a challenge, depending on the theme of the service. In between the sermon and the final hymn, I may well have another hymn, sing a solo, or sing a duet if my friend is with me.

From time to time during my ministry I have had the usual ‘Songs of Praise’. Quite often I will include a hymn story during this service, and, more often than not, invite the congregation to choose the hymns on a particular theme such as life, joy, hope. On the first Sunday of the year 20001 put together a United Service with our local parish church — ‘A Millennium Songs of Praise’. I tried to find, scouring every available hymn-book, a hymn for every century interspersed with prayer, readings and comments. Although this proved quite difficult for some centuries, I did include Watts and Wesley of course. When we came to the 20th century I included some CSSM choruses, e.g. ‘In my heart there rings a melody’, a hymn by Timothy Dudley-Smith, and my own Millennium Hymn. The service concluded with a short sermon on the Second Coming by the Anglican minister, and the final hymn ‘Look to the skies, there’s a celebration’ by Graham Kendrick. It was not possible to sing all the verses of each hymn! We usually managed two or three.

I have long since come to the conclusion that there are a number of older hymns I would never wish to sing, and whilst there are many good new hymns and worship songs, there are also a great number of these I wouldn’t choose either. I want to pick something which is theologically sound, fits the bill, points us to God — The Father, Son and Holy Spirit — and speaks to the people who sing it, to comfort, encourage or challenge.

Some Free Church denominations have four hymns every Sunday, and always in the exact same place in the service. That would never do for me, as the hymns/worship songs are very important, and help to make the worship complete in itself. More often than not, there aren’t enough spaces on the hymn board for my selection!

I’m more keen than most Free Church and Evangelical people to stick to the Church’s pattern of the Christian calendar. This is not only because you can preach on themes that in some places are being neglected, but also there is a rich variety of hymns for the various special days that aren’t sung much nowadays.

I never assume that everyone in the congregation is a committed Christian, so while I’m not bound in my choice to be careful what I choose for them to sing, I do have an eye for it.

I suppose I’m quite critical of other people’s choices, especially as I am early retired owing to ill health, and in the pew more than I have ever been. I get cross when the service ends with a hymn like ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty’, as we sing, just as we are about to leave the church, ‘All you who hear, now to His temple draw near’!

From time to time I am involved in leading worship that includes a special time in a service, a) to dedicate a child, b) to baptize a believer, c) to receive someone into Church membership, d) an act of Induction, etc. On these occasions this section of the service is left to me, and I will include a suitable hymn and some Scripture to hold it together, and of course the same applies for Communion. The more hymns the congregation can learn, the better. They need to be a good tune matched by good words that will help the Christians to live for Jesus Christ, and sustain them through days of trouble, even into old age itself.

If I am ever asked to preach and lead worship at your church, please don’t expect the mundane or the ordinary — you may even have to turn out the vestry cupboard! I preach in Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Free Evangelical, Brethren, Mission Halls, URC, Congregational and Wesleyan Reform churches.

Michael Haighton


Composing Music for Worship ed. Stephen Darlington and Alan Kreider. Canterbury Press, Norwich 2003. xii + 179pp. £12.99 pbk. (ISBN 1-85311-524-X)

This stimulating symposium is the fruit of lectures and discussion in the Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College combined with congregational worship at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The varied insights and experience of the eleven contributors were shared during the eight weeks of Hilary Term 2000.

Kreider at the outset states the point at issue: although music seeks to unite and inform word and action in corporate worship, in our so-called post-modern culture, ‘never in humanity’s history has music been as omnipresent …but, at the same time, organized religion is increasingly avoidable, at least in Western Europe’. How may and should church music, and worship patterns as a whole, continue to value both ancient glories and an honoured inheritance that is not so old, and at the same time make way for fresh musical and cultural experience? Age alone is no guarantee of quality. Whither the ten thousand or so hymns of Wesley and Fanny Crosby? How enduring will or should the latest ‘song’ be?

As a versatile composer and instrumentalist Howard Goodall sympathetically examines the possibilities of reconciling popular pleas for easy listening and awesome mystery in church music; but many may question his view that ‘excellence has been the driving force of all areas of sacred music in the past and will continue to be so’.

In a lively contribution Andrew Carter of York, who as a young man sang bass in an Anglican cathedral choir, directed the music in a Roman Catholic school and married a Quaker, justifies a sophisticated approach to music in worship, and Robert Saxton, an Oxford lecturer in music, analyses his own work and intent in sacred music, drawing a distinction between a congregation and an audience.

James MacMillan brings theological insight to his vocation as a composer and raises a fascinating debating point: ‘music as well as being the most spiritual is also the most abstract of the arts’. He quotes approvingly the view of the present Archbishop of Canterbury, expressed some years ago in a Three Choirs Festival sermon, that ‘to listen seriously to music and to perform it are among our most potent ways of learning what it is to live with and before God, learning service that is a perfect freedom …The time we have renounced, given up, is given back to us as a time in which we have become more human, more real, even when we can’t say what we have learned, only that we have changed.’

Many readers may turn first to the piece by the best-known contributor, Graham Kendrick, whose ‘school’ has shared significantly in changing the face of traditional hymnody. To read Kendrick first may be no bad thing because, whereas the book as a whole has its sights on the role of experienced composers, instrumentalists and singers, Kendrick focuses on the aspirations of traditional local congregations. Besides expounding his own guiding principles in writing congregational songs, he offers helpful biblical insight into worship-leading.

Recalling the horrendous Dunblane primary school outrage in March 1996 when sixteen children and their teacher were killed, John Bell, a leading Scottish musician and member of the Iona Community, explores what he feels is a lost but necessary strain of lamentation in Christian worship.

In dialogue with the Cathedral’s music director Stephen Darlington and his academic colleague at Oxford, Christopher Rowland, the composer Roxanna Panufnik discusses, among other practical music matters, why there have been so few women composers, and why the market for recorded church music is experiencing phenomenal growth.

Three essays look to the future. Many worship leaders, particularly those unfamiliar or dissatisfied with current denominational hymn-books, may be surprised and challenged by Janet Wootton’s salutary survey illustrating and justifying a remarkable contemporary renaissance in the composition of relevant hymns and tunes of quality. There were, for example, some 750 entries submitted for the St Paul’s Cathedral millennium hymn competition organized by Michael Saward.

Organists will be heartened to learn from John Ferguson of Minnesota that they remain primary instrumental leaders and accompanists of congregational song. Professor John Harper of Bangor and Director of the RSCM has the last word on what he judges the current ‘fragility of church music’ and the theme with which the debate began, a plea to ‘make counterpoint with the Christian past or with other Christian presents’.

The relatively modest length of this worthwhile book should not obscure its heady breadth. Although some readers may find its scope somewhat daunting and a stage removed from typical congregational worship, all worship leaders, ordained and lay, musically trained or not, should be challenged to reflect and discuss the expertise it represents. Is the Church so richly endowed with artists that it can afford to disregard their eagerness to advance the kingdom through Christian worship? Standards of excellence and sophistication, musically and theologically, must not be jeopardized by the congregational box-office.

John Hough

Jubilate, Everybody: the Story of Jubilate Hymns by Michael Saward. Jubilate Hymns Ltd, 2003. (ISBN 0 9505589 4 X). Available free (except for postage and packing 40p) from Canon Michael Saward, 6 Discovery Walk, London E1W 2JG.

Unquestionably the greatest impact on the world of serious hymnody in the last three or four decades has been that made by the group of writers, composers and arrangers now known as Jubilate Hymns. Their first collective forays were into ‘youth fellowship’ territory with Youth Praise, Volumes 1 and 2 (1966, 1969); the success of these collections then encouraged the team to launch into Psalm Praise, 1973.

Stimulated by the growing demand for ‘you’ rather than ‘thou’ language in worship they then decided to embark on a new full-scale hymn-book of which a major feature would be the ‘modernization’ of older hymn texts. The group may not have been entirely unprepared for the storm of controversy that greeted Hymns for Today’s Church on its publication in 1982; nevertheless, there seems to be no reason to doubt the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Since then the group has issued a continuous stream of publications including carol collections, more psalm books, books of ‘world praise’ and, on the edge of the new millennium, Sing Glory to supersede Hymns for Today’s Church. Jubilate now has some forty members, who, between them, have produced about 1500 new hymn and song texts and over 700 tunes.

From the beginning Michael Saward, words editor for many of the publications, has been very much at the centre of the enterprise. Thus he is particularly well placed to recount the circumstances leading to the formation of the group and their unflagging productivity. Among many fascinating details he relates the problems involved in seeking to modernize Bishop Mant’s ‘Bright the vision’ and the national furore over their alternative (but not substitute!) version of the National Anthem.

Jubilate Hymns certainly have much to celebrate and this 44-page booklet tells their story without undue modesty. It is clearly but a step on the way for we are told that one or two further publications are being planned. Indeed, given the group’s unceasing industry and well targeted publicity campaigns, there seems no reason why they should not continue indefinitely.

The present account cannot fail to engage every member of this society. So do send off your 40p (preferably, no doubt, in stamps) without delay.

Dr Bernard Massey

Anniversaries of 2004

We list here the year’s notable anniversaries of hymn authors and composers represented in current British hymnals.

Author = Author or Translator; ? = exact date unknown

50 Years ago (1954)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~J.H. Matthews, 28 Jan~G.K. Menzies, 12 Mar
D.W. Dearie, 27 MarDorothy H. Stone, 16 Apr
Charles Ives, 19 MayJ. Nichol Grieve, 19 June
A.E. Braine, ?W.P. Merrill, 19 June
A.W. Light, ?Jessie Adams, 15 July
J.E. McConnell, ?H.C. Carter, 1 Aug
D.C. Smith, ?J.S. Arkwright, 19 Sep
Anne B. Russell, 29 Oct
Hetty Holland, 2 Nov
Frank Fletcher, 17 Nov
D. Haldenby, ?
N.B. Herrell, ?
J.E. McConnell, ?
100 Years ago (1904)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
H.H. Bancroft, 29 FebJ. Brabham, 7 FebJohn Holmes, 6 JanE. Hodder, 1 Mar
J.E.H. Creed, 28 MarG.F. Cobb, 31 MarC. Day-Lewis, 27 AprA. Dvorak, 1 May
Adrian Beecham, 4 SepW.H. Longhurst, 17 JuneFlora Larsson, 31 MayJoseph A. Seiss, 20 June
W.F. Palstra, 9 NovC.C. Scholefield, 10 SepDoreen Lord, 25 SepS.R. Hole, 27 Aug
Reginald Baker, 17 DecHenry Hiles, 20 OctW.F. Palstra, 9 NovFrederick Whitfield, 13 Sep
Ernest Evans, ?Sarah B. Rhodes, 21 NovA.E. Mingay, 11 DecW. T. Sleeper, 24 Sep
C.E. Willing, 1 DecJ.H. Cansdale, ?Sarah B. Rhodes, 21 Nov
James Lamb, 29 DecRaymond E. Cunningham, ?J.E. Rankin, 28 Nov
George A. Minor, ?Edna Phillips, ?J.W. Chadwick, 11 Dec
M. Tausky, ?Edna D. Cheyney, ?
David Thomas, ?
150 Years ago (1854)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
Handel Parker, 29 JanJ. Pears, ?W.H. (‘Harry’) Davis, 19 AprW.B. Collyer, 9 Jan
Thomas Hutchinson, 23 AprC. Strang, 6 JuneJ. Montgomery, 30 Apr
R. Slater, 7 JuneR. Slater, 7 JuneJ.W. Hey, 19 May
E.S. Lorenz, 11 JulyF.H. Rowley, 25 July
T.C. Marshall, 7 SepE.L. Budry, 30 Aug
W.G. Collins, 11 SepT.C. Marshall, 7 Sep
George W. Chadwick, 13 Nov W.G. Collins, 11 Sep
J.C. Bateman, ?D. MacGregor, 18 Sep
Oscar Wilde, 16 Oct
Edward Grubb, 19 Oct
J.C. Bateman, ?
Malcolm Quin, ?
B. Wilks, ?
200 Years ago (1804)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
F. Filitz, 18 MarJ.A. Hiller, 16 JuneWilliam Newell, 25 FebJ.D. Carlyle, 12 Apr
Frederick Gooch, 10 AprG.M. Giornovichi, 23 NovJ.W. Alexander, 13 MarJames Allen, 31 Oct
W.J. Copeland, 1 Sep
Samuel Greg, 6 Sep
Richard Jukes, 9 Oct
B.H. Kennedy, 6 Nov
R.S. Hawker, 3 Dec
250 Years ago (1754)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~~John Leland, 14 MayJ.G. Wolff, 6 Aug
W. Drennan, 23 May
300 Years ago (1704)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~M.A. Charpentier, 24 FebA. von Gersdorf, 7 Apr~
A.G. Spangenberg, 15 July
350 Years ago (1654)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
M. Herbst, 15 Jan~F. Canitz, 27 Nov~
400 Years ago (1604)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
H. Albert, 28 June~H. Albert, 28 June~
450 Years ago (1554)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~~P. Sidney, 29 Nov~
950 Years ago (1054)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~~~Herman the Lame, 24 Sep
1200 Years ago (804)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~~~Alcuin, 19 May
1250 Years ago (754)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~~~Boniface, 5 June
1400 Years ago (604)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~~~Gregory the Great, 12 Mar
1650 Years ago (354)
Composers BornComposers DiedAuthors BornAuthors Died
~~Augustine of Hippo, 13 Nov~


Forgive us for loving familiar hymns and religious feelings more than Thee, O Lord.

— from the Litany of the United Presbyterian Church (quoted, at the head of chapter 40, in — of all places! — Death is now my neighbour, an Inspector Morse story by Colin Dexter).

Fishes and Freedom by Christopher Idle

An exploratory exercise in textual analysis
(Adapted from a paper first read at a training session within the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches)

We begin with the text: not perhaps in your church’s hymn-book or acetate-file, but sufficiently well-established to form common ground where other matters may divide us:

One, two, three four five,
once I caught a fish alive;
six, seven, eight nine ten,
then I let him go again.
Why did you let him go?
Because he bit my finger so.
Which finger did he bite?
This little finger on the right.

  1. Metre and rhythm: The metre, it will be seen, is unusual but regular (, avoiding the monotony of doggerel by variations in the stress. The tantalizing spondees in lines 1, 3 and 5 are swiftly overtaken by the speed of the following syllables. Judicious punctuation or the lack of it may help, but, even without such devices, the sound of the words themselves makes it clear how they are to be read and/or sung. How unlike, for example, such texts as ‘Be thou my vision’ and ‘I am the bread of life’.
  2. Rhyme: exact. Each line rhymes with its partner: there is no inconsistency, no careless approximation. This satisfies the subconscious expectation, defines the boundaries and aids the memory.
  3. Alliteration: this is clearly present without being overdone. Notice, for instance, four/five, six/seven, etc.
  4. Chiasmus: this device beloved (even perfected) by Charles Wesley, most famously in ‘Jesu, Lover of my soul’, appears neatly and unpretentiously in lines 6 and 7: ‘bit…finger: finger bite’.
  5. Repetition: again, present but under perfect control, as in ‘Come, thou long- expected Jesus’ or ‘Hark, the herald-angels sing’. In these lines, notice the threefold ‘finger’, the double ‘let him go’, and the more subtle ‘one/once’ of the opening couplet.
  6. Variation of voice: much can be achieved here in a short space without the thoroughgoing responsorial antiphony of ‘Who is he in yonder stall’ or ‘Who killed cock robin’. This is wisely restricted to the second half of the text, providing both variety and progression (matching the metrical variation of increased syllables). There is scope in the question-answer patterns for more than one voice, either matching solos, solo/group, or two sections of a congregation. It is wise to avoid specifying ‘men/women’ (or, as in the 1960s Youth Praise, ‘fellows/girls’) as this leads to gender stereotyping or problems with single-sex events. The artistry here may be compared favourably with the heavier treatment found in ‘See amid the winter’s snow’ (‘Say, ye holy shepherds, say’ etc) or even that of ‘Good King Wenceslas’.
  7. Theme: the text, brief as it is (and the shortest compositions are the hardest to get exactly right as there is less margin for error or weakness), tells a story. That is, something actually happens: more than one event, indeed. To simplify, there is at the very least narration, reflection, interrogation, response; a developing drama all within the Wattsian discipline of end-stopped lines. Here is no need for contrived enjambment. The key verbs are active: caught, go, bit, bite, etc. While there is a place for more meditative items where mood is the dominant factor, the finest lyrics are surely those which celebrate events and tell a story rather than merely describing at some length how we feel or what we need. Psalm 23 remains a classic in this as in so much else (feed, lead, walk, restore, prepare, anoint, etc; a rich variety not dependent on any one translation). And Psalm 136, often cited as an example of multi-repetition, carries us triumphantly through an extended narrative punctuated by a refrain which allows us to draw breath, reminds us of the central message, but depends on the intervening verses for its strength. Like that Psalm and many others, our present text has as its main motif the concept of captivity, pain and liberation. This can never be very far from the heart of our hymnody as of our faith.
  8. The logical order: in more recent writing of a certain type this factor is often, if surprisingly, neglected. But here, whether we take the text as a single stanza, as two quatrains or as four couplets, these lines cannot be arbitrarily swapped around. They make sense in the given order and in no other. For classical parallels we instinctively turn, not so much to credal or Trinitarian verses (though they make the same point) as to Wesleyan masterpieces such as ‘O thou who earnest from above’ and ‘Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go’. Both of these incidentally illustrate many of the other points made here.
  9. Length: consequently upon this, the whole piece is of a satisfying length. We neither desire to, nor indeed can, abbreviate by omitting lines 5-6, add on some alien doxology or spurious lines 9-10 about sitting fishing for ten thousand years. Nor do we need to sing the whole piece two or three times over.
  10. Mystery: few good texts leave us thinking we know it all and have it all worked out. Most have that element of wonder, the unanswered question, the challenge of the open-ended parable. As well as the obvious ‘Who exactly am “I” in these lines?’ (cf. ‘When I survey’, ‘Just as I am’, etc.) the ending raises other issues which the text qua text does not pretend to deal with. There is always more to come, more to discover, more to find even at our own fingertips, literally so in this example.

Am I now suggesting that here is an ideal text which should be in everyone’s book? Not quite. It is fair to point out some drawbacks even in such an excellent example as this. To enumerate these differently:

  1. That crucial first line. At first sight, the opening five syllables are not the stuff that stirs the blood of committed believers or halts harlots and hypocrites in their headlong rush to ruin (contrast respectively ‘O come, all ye faithful’ and ‘Come, ye souls by sin afflicted’, etc.). They rather take their place alongside such familiar arithmetical openings as ‘Forty days and forty nights’, ‘Three in One and One in Three’, or even ‘Ten thousand times ten thousand’. And, as surely as ‘Jesus lives’ and ‘We plough the fields’, the text deserves to be known or announced not by its opening phrase or line but by the first two lines. And by way of compensation, the final line with its closing ‘right’ is a fine ending.
  2. Is the text centred too much on individual experience? It certainly is an ‘I’ text rather than a ‘we’ one. However, the presence of another voice prevents the whole thing sliding into a purely self-absorbed autobiography of the ’blessings all mine’ mode, from which ‘Amazing grace’ is hardly immune.
  3. The language, we now see, is not inclusive. This fish turns out to be ‘him’ and ‘he’. Is there a remedy? Two superficially attractive solutions, widely paralleled elsewhere, would be neutering or pluralization. But the first option produces ‘let it’ (x2), immediately followed by ‘it bit’ and ‘did it’, which does nothing for the fluency of sound or musical appropriateness. The second option, ‘once I caught two fish…’ leads to an ungainly repeat of the word ‘two’, and the unlikely scenario of two fishes both biting the same finger. Not all instant solutions have been thought through in this way. Our chosen verses remain among a small number of intractably masculine texts.
  4. As the theme is developed, leaders and singers may be overcome by an instinctive urge to raise fingers, hands and arms to illustrate the words. This may in some circles come close to what is seen as charismatic excess. Even Psalm 134 is avoided or bowdlerized in some hyper-sensitive groups.
  5. Finally, a certain lack of specific content may be noted; where are the distinctive signs and names of our faith? The ‘liberation’ theme may not be enough, since in our our day even the Exodus has been secularized and spiritually degutted. All we can point to is the time-honoured symbol of the fish as being very close to primitive Christian worship and publicity, not least because the fish is explicitly ‘alive’. Those who at the beginning were summoned to be ‘fishers of men’ (sic) presumably understood their calling as to collect living specimens, not dead ones.

As will be plain from the foregoing we are only scratching the surface of a text with many levels of resonance and meaning. A final and serious question remains. Is this whole exercise a rather laboured mockery of the analysis of longer and more solemn or sacred productions? We answer No, on two counts.

First, that the genre of writing represented here is far too widespread and deeply rooted to be regarded as trivial. See, for example, the section of similar pieces included in the latest (1999) edition of The Oxford Book of English Verse, and relevant paragraphs in the editor’s own Preface. Appropriately following William Cowper and ‘God moves in a mysterious way’, not long before Blake’s ‘And did those feet’, Professor Christopher Ricks includes Nos. 363 to 381. Among these pieces, lines such as ‘Baa, baa, black sheep’, ‘Jack and Jill went up the hill’, ‘Sing a song of sixpence’ and others, may well lend themselves to similar work to that attempted here. This too is an 18th-19th-century golden age of creativity. Sheep, water and kingship will hardly need defending as familiar themes of hymnody; problems of contemporary relevance or modernizing (‘sixpence’?) may, however, prove acute.

But the final point is this: if the construction of such pieces as these, anonymous, hidden, even juvenile as they are, reveals such instinctively fine skill and artistry, should not the writers of what is sung in church strive for at least an equal care and excellence in their own field? How far are the factors 1-10 crucial to the success story of a verse-text for singing? How many products of the last thirty years would meet even such simple criteria, or stand up to such a brief examination, as I have suggested here? The case seems to me unanswerable, the lessons unmistakable.

Christopher Idle


In our last issue the article on the Olney Hymns was by Professor Vincent Newey (not Newby). Our deep and shamefaced apologies to Professor Newey, who hopes that members will amend their own copies, both on p.61 and p.67.


Dear Bernard,

May I, through the Bulletin, express my gratitude to the officers and members of the Society, who in my absence appointed me an honorary vice-president of the Hymn Society at their annual meeting this summer?

I feel this to be a very special honour, coming as it does from many who are my friends as well as my fellow-members. I would like you all to know how much 1 appreciate it.

Yours sincerely
Timothy Dudley-Smith

Dear Dr Massey,

For some time I have thought about our Bulletin running a helpline for some of those hymns that leave us wondering on their meaning. Perhaps even a series where one person poses a question on an obscure line, and someone else gives the answer.

There are times when, even as you sing, the penny drops, as the Holy Spirit brings illumination to the mind, but there are other times when, unlike St Paul, we sing, but not with understanding.

For some years I have puzzled about the line found in the hymn ‘O breath of God, breathe on us now’. The line that taxed my understanding was ‘O plead the Truth, and make reply to every argument of sin.’ Thanks to the Revd Selwyn Hughes in his Daily Bible Reading Notes, I now have understanding. The Holy Spirit wants to keep us from all sin, and when we try and make excuses — i.e. arguments — His job is to plead the Truth, and turn us away from arguing for the wrong, and to walk in the path of Jesus Christ.

If you will permit, Mr Editor, a short series as I have suggested above, then to set the ball rolling, allow me to ask for an explanation to the line of a well-known hymn. While understanding much of the great and lovely Easter hymn of Wesley’s, ‘Christ the Lord is risen today’, I have never understood the line ‘Lo, He sets in blood no more.’
Can anyone help, and perhaps also request guidance for a line or hymn they don’t understand?

Yours sincerely
Michael Haighton

Dear Dr Massey,

I was fascinated to read David Wright’s article in the July 2003 issue of the Bulletin on S.F. Forrest’s hymn ‘My grace is sufficient’. As a user of The Golden Hymnal for about 45 years, until four years ago, I am familiar with the hymn, and have probably sung it a dozen or more times. Sometimes I have included it in services that I have led, the last of which was as recently as 6 July 2003, when I preached from Mark 4:38 at a small and struggling fellowship, and used ‘My grace is sufficient’ as the closing hymn.

As to the tune, I have always associated it with the aria ‘O thou that tellest’ from Handel’s Messiah; the first three lines are each fairly close quotations from phrases in the aria, while the fourth rounds things off nicely in the same spirit. As I have said of it more than once from the pulpit, ‘If you don’t know the tune, it is very easy to pick up — in fact it almosts sings itself’.

I did think of pointing out this tune to Philip Neville when he wrote in the October 2002 Bulletin asking for examples of Gardinerisms; but I didn’t, because I thought, wrongly as it now appears, that the hymn would be known to Hymn Society members.

I agree with David Wright that both text and tune make ‘My grace is sufficient’ a good candidate for rediscovery by present-day hymn-book compilers.

Yours sincerely
Brian D. West

[In regard to the tune, Mr Richard Stonelake of Uxbridge has pointed out that its first three phrases correspond to bars 12-14, 24-26 and 57-59 of the aria, transposed from D to G. Ed.]

Dear Alan Gaunt,

As the Hymn Conference draws to a close I wonder to whom I should direct my thanks for such a wonderful experience. So many people make so many contributions that the only solution seems to me to address my general thanks to the President and trust that he will pass on whatever he thinks worth repeating to the people concerned. So that is why I am writing to you.

In my working life I was for a two-year period the Chairman of the National Association of Goldsmiths of Great Britain and Ireland and in that position responsible for the running of our annual conferences. Although all the real work was done by others I know how I felt both while it was on and when it had ended. Some people wrote to say kind things and I appreciated that and recognized that they were really wanting to express their pleasure to all concerned. I hope you will also be pleased to know that Anne and I really enjoyed every minute of the conference and are grateful to all the people who made it such a success.

For us it is much more than a gathering of people with a common interest in hymns. For us it is a spiritual experience that broadens our love and understanding of God and encourages us in all we do. When people share with us their insights and experiences we are encouraged and enthused. For us, amateurs in hymnody, having attended three conferences, we mark the future dates into our diaries and hope to attend for many years to come. We love the talks because normally we never hear people speak with such experience about something that has been central to our Christian experience for all of our lives. We enjoy the exchanges with other people and the Acts of Worship and Praise are highlights. Just everything is good — you have a winning formula.

So, thank you. With best wishes,
Michael Jones

Among our contributors:

Derrick Baker of Market Bosworth is a retired bank manager; his wife Beryl is a retired Methodist local preacher. Both are keen amateur church musicians and are veterans of many of our conferences.

David Goodall, a URC minister retired to Church Stretton, Shropshire, was secretary of the texts committee for Rejoice and Sing and editor of its Companion. He and Caryl Micklem were contemporaries at Mansfield College, Oxford. Michael Haighton is a retired Baptist minister now living in Rugby.

Derek Hodgson, Yorkshire-born and bred, was incumbent of parishes in the diocese of Wakefield, including 22 years at Mytholmroyd. He retired to Pocklington in 1997 where he sings tenor with the Pocklington Singers.

John Hough served on the editorial committee (words) for Baptist Praise and Worship: after a career with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors he retired to Eastbourne where he is still active as a lay preacher.

Christopher Idle, after thirty years in parish ministry, is now a freelance writer and tutor. A prolific hymn writer, he has served on the editorial committees of several hymnals and has edited this Bulletin.

The Bulletin of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland

Editor: Dr Bernard Massey
Secretary: Robert Canham

Treasurer: Michael Garland

Registered Charity No. 248225

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