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Hymn History: All Saints Day

November 1 is All Saints Day, a sometimes-overlooked holy day in United Methodist congregations. It is not nearly as well known as the day before, All Hallows’ (Saints’) Eve, better known as Halloween, but is far more important in the life of the church.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day. In a journal entry from November 1, 1767, Wesley calls it “a festival I truly love.” On the same day in 1788, he writes, “I always find this a comfortable day.” The following year he calls it “a day that I peculiarly love.”

This may sound odd. United Methodists don’t believe in saints. Right?

Well, yes… and no.

Wesley cautioned against holding saints in too high regard.The Articles of Religion that he sent to the Methodists in America in 1784, include a statement against “invocation of saints” (Article XIV—Of Purgatory, Book of Discipline ¶104). Wesley did not see biblical evidence for the practice and discouraged Methodists from participating.

However, he also advised against disregarding the saints altogether.

In an All Saints Day journal entry dated Monday, November 1, 1756, Wesley writes, “How superstitious are they who scruple giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints!” If your 18th century English is as rusty as mine, it might help to know that the word scruple means, “to be unwilling to do something because you think it is improper, morally wrong, etc.” (Merriam-Webster.com).

All Saints Day is an opportunity to give thanks for all those who have gone before us in the faith. It is a time to celebrate our history, what United Methodists call the tradition of the church.

From the early days of Christianity, there is a sense that the Church consists of not only all living believers, but also all who have gone before us. For example, in Hebrews 12 the author encourages Christians to remember that a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounds us encouraging us, cheering us on.

Charles Wesley, John’s brother, picks up on this theme in his hymn that appears in our United Methodist Hymnal as “Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above,” #709. In the first verse, he offers a wonderful image of the Church through the ages:

Let saints on earth unite to sing, with those to glory gone,
for all the servants of our King in earth and heaven, are one.

On All Saints Day we remember all those—famous or obscure—who are part of the “communion of saints” we confess whenever we recite The Apostles’ Creed. We tell the stories of the saints “to glory gone.”

Alongside the likes of Paul from the New Testament, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John and Charles Wesley, we tell stories of the grandmother who took us to church every Sunday. We remember the pastor who prayed with us in the hospital, and the neighbor who changed the oil in the family car. We give thanks for the youth leader who told us Jesus loved us, the kindergarten Sunday school teacher who showered us with that love, and the woman in the church who bought us groceries when we were out of work.

Retelling these stories grounds us in our history. These memories teach us how God has provided for us through the generosity and sacrifice of those who have come before us. The stories of the saints encourage us to be all God has created us to be.

Charles Wesley’s hymn tells us those “to glory gone” are joined by the “saints on earth,” whom we also celebrate on All Saints Day. We think of the inspirational people with whom we worship on Sunday, and those across the world we will never meet. We celebrate fellow United Methodists who inspire us, and those of other denominations whose lives encourage us. We give thanks for those with whom we agree, as well as those whose views we do not share.

Additionally, we remember and pray for our sisters and brothers in Christ who faithfully follow Jesus in places where being labeled a Christian puts them in harm’s way.

On All Saints Day, we recognize that we are part of a giant choir singing the same song. It is the song Jesus taught his disciples; a tune that has resonated for more than 2,000 years; a melody sung in glory and on the earth. Our great privilege is to add our voices to this chorus.

The last verse of “Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above” encourages us to sing faithfully while on earth, so we might join the heavenly chorus one day.

Our spirits too shall quickly join, like theirs with glory crowned,
and shout to see our Captain’s sign, to hear His trumpet sound.

O that we now might grasp our Guide! O that the word were given!
Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, and land us all in heaven.

On All Saints Day, let us give thanks for both the saints in glory and those on earth, who have led us to Jesus. As they have shared the gospel with us, may we add our voices so someone else may hear about the grace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for the lives of his saints.

Adapted from https://www.umc.org/en/content/all-saints-day-a-holy-day-john-wesley-loved

 

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2022 in Holidays, Hymn History, Posts of Interest

 

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Hymn History: Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
attributed to Dorothy A. Thrupp;
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 381

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
much we need thy tender care;
in thy pleasant pastures feed us,
for our use thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

The Pender UMC Traditional Service Middle Hymn “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us” on Sunday September 11, 2022 was played by Liz Eunji Moon on piano, accompanied on guitar by Brian Stevenson and sung the Pender Sanctuary Choir and congregation.

“Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” attributed to Englishwoman Dorothy A. Thrupp (1779-1847), is found in almost every Christian hymnal. According to the hymnology website, www.hymnary.org, “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” appears in 1005 hymnals. It is one hymn that most church members can recognize across denominational lines. What may surprise most churchgoers to know, however, is that for such a well-known and loved hymn of the Christian faith, we know little about how it was written or who the true author was. Its past aside, however, we see that whoever penned these words had a deeply theological message to share.

The mystery of the authorship of the words goes back to the 1830s, when the hymn made its first appearances in Thrupp’s Hymns for the Young (c. 1830) and the Fourth Edition in 1836, but without attribution. Rev. William Carus Wilson published a magazine titled The Children’s Friend (June 1838) and ascribed the poem to “Lyte,” possibly Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847). British hymnologist J. R. Watson notes, “The authorship remains in doubt; all that can be added is that a stylistic analysis of the vocabulary, rhythm and content would suggest that Thrupp, rather than Henry Francis Lyte, was the author” (Canterbury Dictionary).

The penned words were directly applied to children, and the anonymous writer obviously meant to use this four-stanza hymn for teaching. It was more than twenty years later that the tune we presently know was composed by the American musician William Bradbury (1816-1868). His tune, named after himself, has most often been associated with this text, except in the case of the Episcopalian tradition that paired the text with the tune SICIILIAN MARINERS. When Bradbury composed this tune, however, he modified the original words meant for children and broadened the meaning to include all the congregation. Then, with some modernizing of the language, the text was standardized as it appears today. Since about 1830, the hymn has remained largely untouched. In fact, when the Methodist Book of Hymns shortened the refrain in 1966, the publisher received so many complaints, the full Bradbury version was put back into The United Methodist Hymnal (1989).

One has to wonder why this hymn has been so successful for nearly two hundred years. The most likely answer is found in the theology of the hymn. Since the focus of the original composition was for young children, Thrupp would have wanted to encapsulate the essence and message of a caring Christ who loves all his children. In the first stanza, we see Christ portrayed as a shepherd offering care and guidance to his flock as well as preparing for service and Christian life. This is followed by an acknowledgement that we are Christ’s. Thrupp alludes to Psalm 23 – “pleasant pastures” – and draws upon the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

Likewise, the second stanza picks up with the idea of possession by Christ and the continued picture of Christ as the Good Shepherd. Now, however, the author shows that we are not only possessed by Christ, but we are also in fellowship with Christ. Christ is our defender and guide, and he will hear us when we pray to him and follow in his footsteps. The author also alludes to the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7), especially in the phrase, “seek us when we go astray.”

The third stanza offers a wonderful picture of the salvation message of Christ—that no one is beyond the reach of God’s love and there is no sin too great to keep us separated from God. Underlying this message is an understanding of original sin, the inherent sinful nature of all of God’s children: “Thou hast promised to receive us,/poor and sinful though we be. . .” Although the concept of original sin finds its roots with St. Augustine (354-430), the sixteenth-century reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin assured the continuation of this theological concept among Protestants. The refrain then acknowledges “We will early turn to Thee,” providing an effective segue into the final stanza – a poetic device known as anadiplosis.

Stanza four reminds us that the original focus of the hymn was on children–with references to seeking Christ early in life: “Early let us seek thy favor;/early let us do thy will. . .”. Thrupp advocated for an early and honest following of Christ that leads us to a place of service and following God’s will. There is a plea for the love of God to be shown through us as the body of Christ and that God’s love will always be present, as he has always loved us.

The picture we get from this hymn, and the reason it has been such a defining song of the church, lies in the fact that it presents the fuller theology of Christian life in one song. This picture of the saving love and grace of God, the salvation message of God, God’s fellowship with us, and the continuing service to God gives us the broader perspective of what the Christian life should be. Thrupp attempted to make the hymn accessible to children, and Bradbury has presented it in a way that is applicable to every Christian. Although this song may have had some vague beginnings, it has a certain future in the church because of its message of hope, love, salvation, and Christian living.

Adapted from https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-savior-like-a-shepherd-lead-us

 

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Tomorrow at Pender ~ The Second Sunday of Advent ~ December 8, 2019

Please join us this Sunday in worship at our 10:00 am Christmas Cantata

“Prepare the way for the coming of the Lord!
Prepare the way…Rejoice!”

You’re invited to experience the Christmas story through music! The Pender Sanctuary Choir will present their Christmas Cantata, “Night of the Father’s Love”, which tells the story of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth through narrative and song.

Described as “The awe and mystery of God with us,” the Cantata presentation will take place during a combined worship service at 10 a.m.

Also Sunday at 5:00 PM

Christmas bells are ringing! You’re invited to a program of beautiful Christmas music performed by the Pender UMC Handbell Choirs. All of Pender’s handbell choirs will be featured, including children and adults.

Cookies, coffee, and other refreshments will be provided in the Fellowship Hall immediately following the concert.

All are welcome for a night of ringing in Christmas cheer! No RSVP required.

Christmas Events at Pender

 

 

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The Promise of Light

 

You’re invited to a musical celebration of God’s gift of eternal light! The Pender UMC music ministry presents “The Promise of Light”, a cantata (narrative piece of music) composed by Joel Raney. The piece includes Christmas carols and original choral music blended with narration, piano, handbell, and percussion, to tell the timeless story of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

The production will take place during Pender’s only Sunday worship service on December 9, at 10 a.m. Stay for a delicious brunch after worship!

No RSVP required; all are welcome. Childcare will be available during worship for ages birth through 6th grade.

DATE AND TIME

Sun, December 9, 2018

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM EST

LOCATION

Pender UMC

12401 Alder Woods Drive

Fairfax, VA 22033

 

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Don’t Forget – Register for Choir!

choir-register320x320

 

 

 

Registrations for Children’s, Youth & Adult Music Ministries are Now Open!

Registration information on PenderUMC

You may also contact Theresa Carpenter.

Pender’s Music Ministry Kicks Off On:
August 31:       Sanctuary Choir
September 5:  Adult Handbells
September 7:  Children’s Choral & Handbells
September 10: Youth Choral & Handbells

 
 

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