Brian Stevenson, Pender UMC Director of Music, presents a series of hymn-based devotions on Wednesdays during Lent.
The first is Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross by Fanny Crosby
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
there a precious fountain,
free to all, a healing stream,
flows from Calvary’s mountain.
In the cross, in the cross,
be my glory ever,
till my raptured soul shall find
rest beyond the river.
The United Methodist Hymnal Number 301
Text: Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915
Music: William H. Doane, 1832-1915
Tune: NEAR THE CROSS, Meter: 76.76 with Refrain
The Pender UMC Traditional Service Middle Hymn “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross” on Sunday January 29, 2023 was played by Liz Eunji Moon on piano, accompanied on guitar by Brian Stevenson, a student cellist and sung the Pender Sanctuary Choir and congregation.
“God of Grace and God of Glory”
Harry Emerson Fosdick The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 577
God of grace and God of glory,
on thy people pour thy power;
crown thine ancient church’s story;
bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour.
Pender Opening Hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” May 22, 2022 accompanied by flute and cello.
“God of grace and God of glory” was written in 1930 by Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) for the dedication of the famous Riverside Church in New York City.
Fosdick was granted degrees from Colgate University and Union Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1903 to ministry in the Baptist Church and became pastor of First Baptist Church, Montclair, N.J.
Fosdick served as a chaplain during World War I and then was pastor of First Presbyterian Church in New York City. From this congregation he was called to pastor Park Avenue Baptist Church, which was renamed Riverside Church.
As we sing this hymn, perhaps it is helpful to remind ourselves of the events that shaped the “hour” and the “days” that provide the context for this great hymn.
“God of grace and God of glory” was written while the United States was in the throes of the Great Depression between the two World Wars. Fosdick was a champion of the social gospel, a movement that recognized the plight of the poor, especially in the urban Northeast during the Industrial Revolution.
UM Hymnal editor Carlton Young has noted: “Fosdick’s stirring radio sermons, books, and public pronouncements established Riverside as a forum for the critique of the same wealth and privilege whose gifts had made possible the building of the church.
“Under his leadership Riverside Church was interdenominational, interracial, without a creed, and, astonishingly for Baptists, required no specific mode of baptism. At the center of Fosdick’s ministry was urban social ministry.”
Fosdick was perhaps the most vocal proponent of the social gospel of his time—a position that brought both wide acclaim and broad disdain.
The congregation moved to a $5 million edifice made possible by a gift from John D. Rockefeller Jr. The new building overlooked the Hudson River in what Fosdick called “a less swank district” than Park Avenue, where the congregation had been located near Harlem.
The hymn was written in the summer of 1930. It took shape as he reflected on the construction of the new building, and was first sung as the processional hymn at the opening service on Oct. 5, 1930, and again at the dedication on Feb. 8, 1931.
The language of the hymn is ultimately that of petition. “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage” concludes each stanza with the effect of a refrain. A petition begins stanza three with “Cure thy children’s warring madness,/ bend our pride to thy control.” The final stanza, equally prophetic, begins with “Save us from weak resignation/ to the evils we deplore.”
Fosdick wrote the text to be sung to the stately REGENT SQUARE (usually sung to “Angels from the realms of glory”). Methodist hymnologist and hymnal editor Robert G. McCuthan, however, first paired it with the Welsh tune CWM RHONDDA for the 1935 Methodist Hymnal. It was an immediate success and the new coupling has been almost universally adopted.
Hymnologist William Reynolds says Fosdick disapproved strongly of the new pairing. When Dr. Young asked the poet why he continued to oppose the use of CWM RHONDDA with his text, Fosdick replied, “My views are well known—you Methodists have always been a bunch of wise guys.”
That discussion notwithstanding, I object to the tempo played by many organists who take the hymn much too fast at the beginning, forcing the congregation to race through the prophetic petitions that conclude each stanza. The Welsh tune demands an appropriately stately tempo (think “processional,” not “horse race”) that gives the congregation time to absorb the challenges offered by the poet.
The Pender UMC Traditional Service Middle Hymn “It is Well With My Soul” on Sunday November 13, 2022 was played by Liz Eunji Moon on piano, directed by Brian Stevenson and sung the Pender Sanctuary Choir and congregation.
The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” was written by a successful Christian lawyer called Horatio Spafford.
His only son died at age 4 in 1871. That year, the Great Chicago Fire wiped out his vast estate, made from a successful legal career.
In 1873 he sent his wife Anna and four daughters over to Europe on a summer trip on the ill-fated SS Ville du Havre. Since he had a lot of work to do, he had planned to travel to England with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, to help with D. L. Moody’s upcoming evangelistic campaigns. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire.
On November 22 the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel killing 226 people, including all four of Spafford’s daughters: Annie, age 12; Maggie, 7; Bessie, 4; and an 18-month old baby. His wife survived the tragedy.
Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford that read “Saved alone.”
Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.;Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.
It is Well With My Soul
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.