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Category Archives: hymns

Hymn History: Count Your Blessings

Count your blessings. Name them, one by one.

This simple mandate for cultivating gratitude and thanksgiving is the opening line in the catchy chorus of “Count Your Blessings,” a church music staple first published more than a century ago.

All these years later, the four verses and chorus can be summed up this way: Counting your blessings may be the antidote to feeling disheartened.

The remaining line of the chorus implores you to, after counting and naming the blessings, to “see what God has done.”

The faithful act of assessing blessings and acknowledging what God has provided in your life may give perspective when challenges and conflicts occur, as the four verses detail (see sidebar).

The author of these song lyrics acknowledges that you can feel burdened and life can seem unfair. So can counting your blessings really help when turmoil swirls around you and discouragement weighs heavy on your mind?

Such was the case for Jacob, who, in Genesis 28, is fleeing from his angry brother, Esau. When Jacob stopped for the night at a place he would later name “Bethel,” Jacob was in the midst of a bad situation. He was alone, scared and had nowhere to go. He also had no idea about how his circumstances might turn out. That night in a dream, God reassured Jacob that He was with him, that He had a plan for Jacob’s life and that He would not leave him. Jacob awoke the next morning with a change of heart and life didn’t seem so bad. “Surely the Lord is in this place,” Jacob said, “and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16)

Numerous stories in the Bible remind you to look beyond your circumstances to see you are not alone, that “the Lord is in this place,” providing anecdotal evidence of the importance of gratitude.

In addition to the anecdotal proof, the virtues of gratitude have been proven by science.

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the test group was asked to daily write down five things for which they were thankful. After doing this every day for one week, the test group reported better sleep patterns and a more positive emotional outlook than the control group.

Members from Perryville United Methodist Church in Perryville, Kentucky, perform “Count Your Blessings.”

Whether the song’s author was battling tough times when he wrote the lyrics is unknown. What we do know is that Johnson Oatman Jr., the lyricist, was a Methodist Episcopal minister who had a penchant for songwriting. “Count Your Blessings,” intended as a song for youth, first appeared in “Songs for Young People,” which was published in 1897 by the Methodist Book Concern, a precursor to The United Methodist Publishing House. Over Oatman’s life, he penned more than 5,000 songs, including the classic hymn “No, Not One.”

For “Count Your Blessings,” Oatman partnered with E.O. Excell, who put Oatman’s words to music. Excell operated a Chicago-based publishing business specializing in Sunday School materials and collaborated with the Methodists for numerous projects. Fun fact about Excell is that he is the same person who wrote the arrangement of “Amazing Grace” that is most often sung throughout the world today.

But back to “Count Your Blessings.”

Once “Songs for Young People” was published, “Count Your Blessings” became a favorite, quickly gaining popularity throughout the world.

Beginning in 1899, only two years after its debut, “Count Your Blessings” appeared in at least half-dozen or more new hymnals each year, a pace that continued for at least a decade. The song was added to hymnals published by the Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples and southern gospel publishers. Even into the mid-20th century, the song continued to be a favorite.

The song was especially popular in the United Kingdom. During the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival, the largest Christian revival in Wales during the 20th century, it is told that “Count Your Blessings” was sung at every service.

One account from a London daily newspaper says that when the famous British evangelist Gipsy Smith presided over a meeting, he announced a hymn, saying, “Let us sing ‘Count Your Blessings.’ Down in South London, the men sing it, the boys whistle to it, and the women rock their babies to sleep to the tune.”

In addition to the upbeat, simple tune that people have found easy to remember, its message has been uplifting folks for generations.

“Like a beam of sunlight,” wrote J.H. Hall, Oatman’s biographer, in “Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers, “(’Count Your Blessings’) has brightened up the dark places of the earth.”

Crystal Caviness works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email or at 615-742-5138.

This story was first published November 14, 2019. 

From https://www.umc.org/en/content/count-your-blessings-an-antidote-to-despair

 

 

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Global UMC virtual choir sings Easter hymn

Global virtual choir sings Easter hymn
More than 400 United Methodists from around the world have joined in singing the favorite Easter hymn “Thine Be the Glory.” Even in the midst of the pandemic, church members can celebrate Christ’s resurrection together.

This was an amazing experience bringing together over 400 singers from different countries, congregations, and communities – proving that even in the midst of a pandemic we are still united.

This project would not have been possible without the help of some amazing folks lending a hand:

  • The arrangement used of “Thine Be the Glory” was written and performed by Rev. Jared Wilson, Senior Associate Pastor and Director of The Music & Arts Academy at Madison Street UMC in Clarksville, Tennessee.
  • The Worship Team at Discipleship Ministries for coordinating the project and providing the vision for the Easter choir.
  • And of course, all 400 singers who submitted wonderful videos for us to use.

Thank you all and Happy Easter!

“Thine Be the Glory” is #308 in The United Methodist Hymnal.

Thine be the glory,
Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory
Thou o’er death hast won.

Angels in bright raiment
Rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave clothes
Where the body lay.

Edmond L. Budry (1854-1932) wrote this hymn, originally in French as “A Toi la gloire, ô Ressuscité.” He was the pastor of the Free Evangelical Church of the Canton of Vevey, Switzerland, having studied theology at Lausanne.

The hymn was written in 1884 and appeared first in Chants Evangeliques (1885). A translation by Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939) gave the hymn increased visibility, especially when it appeared in the first edition of the hymnal for the World Student Christian Federation, Cantate Domino (1924). The Methodist Hymn Book (1933) was the first European hymnal to include the hymn.

Methodist hymnologist Fred Gaely notes that, “Budry was often asked to make translations of favorite German or English hymns, but he preferred to rewrite the texts, often improving on the original, and often freely adapting old Latin hymns.”

The inspiration for this hymn, according to Budry’s friend Paul Laufer, came from the words of Friedrich-Heinrich Ranke (1798-1876), published to the tune, MACCABAEUS, by George Fredrick Handel (1685-1759). The tune was adapted from a processional song in Handel’s oratorio Joshua (1747), as well as later versions of the more famous oratorio Judas Maccabaeus (1746).

Budry freely adapted Ranke’s Advent text and transformed it as an Easter hymn. As Gaely recognized, the Easter text “emphasized still more the triumphal nature of Handel’s music.” John Wesley, a contemporary of Handel, enjoyed this tune very much and cites it as one of his favorites in journal entries for March 29, 1774, and March 30, 1787.

According to English hymnologist J. Richard Watson, the hymn “is based on the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection (with a brief allusion to St. Thomas and doubt in verse 3), together with St. Paul’s commentary on it in I Corinthians 15.” This is especially evident in the use of the word “victory” in the refrain, reminiscent of I Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Stanza two almost quotes directly I Corinthians 15:55. The Scripture says, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Hoyle’s translation of the second stanza concludes, “death hath lost its sting.”

This hymn took on new life for me in August 2008 when I joined a group of United Methodist musicians in a teaching mission to Côte d’Ivoire, the newest (admitted formally to the denomination at the 2008 General Conference) and largest (nearly 700,000 members) of the denomination’s conference regions. Sponsored by the Global Praise Project of the General Board of Global Ministries, our group was charged to train a new generation of church musicians in Côte d’Ivoire.

As we concluded our time in this West African country, we realized that we were taught as much—if not more—by the African Christian musicians than we were teaching. One of the hymns that these United Methodists sang with great vigor was “A Toi la gloire, ô Ressuscité.” We heard it in two versions: the first was the classic Western hymn style; the second was a West African version complete with drums, electronic keyboards and guitars. Both were delightful.

It was a joy to see how this hymn has transcended not only time and cultures, but also continents to resonate with a vibrant Easter joy.

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

From https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-easter-celebration-hymn-transcends-time-cultures-1

 
 

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The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley

charles-wesley

Charles Wesley lived from December 18, 1707 until March 29, 1788.  He was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley the Younger. Charles Wesley is mostly remembered for the over 6,000 hymns he wrote.

In the course of his career, Charles Wesley published the words of over six thousand hymns, many of which are still popular. These include:

  • “Arise my soul arise”
  • “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?”
  • “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”
  • “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies”
  • “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”
  • “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”
  • “Depth of Mercy, Can it Be”
  • “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee”
  • “Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise”
  • “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”
  • “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”
  • “Jesus, The Name High Over All”
  • “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending”
  • “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”
  • “O for a Heart to Praise My God”
  • “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”
  • “Rejoice, the Lord is King”
  • “Soldiers of Christ, Arise”
  • “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose”
  • “Ye Servants of God”

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2016 in hymns, Posts of Interest, Videos, Webmaster posts

 

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Want to Know More about the Hymnal?

hymnal

 

Chuck Knows Church is here to explain:

Chuck Knows Church — THE HYMNAL. “Turn in your hymnal to page….” Heard that before in church? Chuck digs into the book that’s usually within your reach each Sunday. And he starts it all off with a solo! Smile and learn with Chuck.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Chuck Knows Church, hymns, Music, Videos

 

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The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley

charles-wesley

Charles Wesley lived from December 18, 1707 until March 29, 1788.  He was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley the Younger. Charles Wesley is mostly remembered for the over 6,000 hymns he wrote.

In the course of his career, Charles Wesley published the words of over six thousand hymns, many of which are still popular. These include:

  • “Arise my soul arise”
  • “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?”
  • “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”
  • “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies”
  • “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”
  • “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”
  • “Depth of Mercy, Can it Be”
  • “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee”
  • “Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise”
  • “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”
  • “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”
  • “Jesus, The Name High Over All”
  • “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending”
  • “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”
  • “O for a Heart to Praise My God”
  • “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”
  • “Rejoice, the Lord is King”
  • “Soldiers of Christ, Arise”
  • “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose”
  • “Ye Servants of God”

 

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in hymns, Posts of Interest, Videos

 

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