Hymn of the Month

Hymn suggestions involving children

The "Hymn of the Month" for Reformed Worship 11 included selections for April, May, and June; with this issue we begin with September, skipping July and August. We are adjusting our schedule to give worship leaders more lead time for planning and to bring hymns of the month in line seasonally with other resources in this and future issues.

We're delighted to learn that so many Christian schools have begun using the Hymn of the Month program. I am thrilled to notice several children in my own congregation singing from memory those songs learned in day school. A kindergarten teacher told me her children memorize the songs more easily than the fifth and sixth graders do."Don't underestimate young children's ability to learn these songs," she said. "Memorizing is easier for younger children.'How Bright Appears the Morning Star' became their favorite hymn last January."

We encourage readers to use their church bulletins or newsletters to reprint excerpts from the following backgrounds to the hymns of the month.

May the Mind of Christ

This hymn provides a beautiful prayer of dedication for all Christian students and teachers returning to the classroom this fall—as well as for all other Christians who seek to develop the "mind of Christ." The hymn is full of scriptural allusions, each stanza listing another way to develop our Christian walk. The text is based primarily on Colos-sians 3:15—17, which includes the phrases "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts," and "Let the word of God dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another…, and as you sing …to God."

This hymn text may be the only one that Katie Wilkinson (1849-1928) wrote. Little is known about her, except that she was a member of the Church of England and worked with girls in London.

The tune ST. LEONARDS was written especially for the text by A. Cyril Barnham-Gould, a minister in the Church of England. This may have been his only composition as well. I suspect that Katie Wilkinson wrote the text as a poem but that Rev. Gould thought it would make a good hymn. Because of the poem's unusual meter, Rev. Gould had to write a tune for it in order to sing it.

The song first appeared in the Children's Special Service Mission hymnal Golden Bells in 1925. In the 1960s, some British hymnals included it, and recently several North American hymnals have picked it up.

The song is very easy for a congregation to learn. The choir and/or some instrumentalists may wish to sing or play the descant already the first week. By the second or third week, many in the congregation may also wish to join their voices on the descant. Church school children could learn one stanza each week and have most of the hymn memorized by the end of the month.

Psalm 114: When Israel Fled from Egypt Land

Psalm 114 tells the story of the exodus, expecially the part where the "sea rolled back to form dry land" so that all God's people could walk safely through the sea on dry ground. The psalmist expresses the joy of all creation at the salvation of Israel; even the hills and mountains skipped like little lambs.

This psalm is very appropriate as a conclusion to the service of confession and assurance. We celebrate that all our sins were drowned in the sea. The psalm is also very appropriate for a baptism service, when we pray that our children will be buried with Christ into death and be raised with him to newness of life.

The text was versified by Henrietta fen Harmsel, who wrote about her work on this text in RW 4. Dr. Ten Harmsel, retired professor of English at Calvin College, has translated several Dutch works and is justly famous for Pink Lemonade, a collection of translated children's poems (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans).

The tune ANDRE was composed by William Bradbury (1816-1868), a native of Maine. He, like Lowell Mason, organized free singing classes that helped to introduce music into the public schools. In a "Lecture on Music" he said that "only such tunes as are singable in the structure and very easy of execution should be introduced" for the congregation to sing. He practiced that doctrine by composing several melodies we all know today, including "Just as I Am," "He Leadeth Me," and "Jesus Loves Me." We are pleased to provide an arrangement for a male choir or quartet and a children's choir in this issue of Reformed Worship (see insert). Jan Overduin, professor of music at Wilfred-Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, composed a delightful organ accompaniment (with optional flute) to depict the fleeing Israelites and then the joyfully jumping hills and mountains. The men sing the first two stanzas. In stanza 3 the children sing the question, "How did all this happen?" The men respond in stanza 4: "The Lord is near." The question is reminiscent of the Passover celebration, where children ask their fathers, "What does this celebration mean?"

This psalm is simple for children to learn. Have the children memorize stanza 3 and join the male quartet or male choir in singing it the first time. The following weeks have the the congregation sing stanzas 1,2, and 4, with the gathered children singing the question in stanza 3.

Now Thank We All Our God

Virtually every Christian hymnal includes this beautiful hymn of thanksgiving, but few people are aware that the hymn grew out of a very difficult situation. The text was written by a German Lutheran musician and pastor who lived during the Thirty Years War in Eilenburg. Marilyn Stulken writes in the Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship:

Since Eilenburg was a walled city, people from miles around sought refuge there, and overcrowding resulted in famine and pestilence. When in 1637 the superintendent left and two other clergymen died, Rinkart alone was left to minister to the city, sometimes preaching burial services for forty or fifty persons in one day. His wife also was taken by the pestilence,and he himself fell ill, but survived.

Stanza 1 is easy for children to learn. Motions will help the youngest ones to memorize the text.

Now thank we / all our God
Clasp hands / spread arms out and up
with heart / and hands / and voices,
cross hands over heart / palms together / cup hands around mouth
who wondrous things has done,
raise left hand in wide arc from right to left
in whom his world rejoices;
raise right hand in wide arc,both hands extended high
who from our mother's arms
cradle arms and rock
has blessed us on our way
move hands beat by beat away from body
with countless gifts of love,
raise arms up and out in wide arc
and still is ours today.
cross arms over heart

Stanza 2 is a prayer for guidance, and stanza 3 concludes with a doxology. The combination of thankfulness, petition, and doxology make this song very appropriate for a number of liturgical settings as well as for weddings. Try using the third stanza for the doxology for the whole season of Thanksgiving before Advent, and then switch to a new doxology for Advent.

 Song Title Here

Upoming Hymns
Reformed Worship 13

December: Comfort,Comfort Now My People (GENEVAN 42/FREUDICHSEHR)
January: Hail to the Lord's Anointed (ES FLOG EIN KLEINS WALDVOGELEIN)
February: The King of Glory Comes (PROMISED ONE)

Reformed Worship 14

March: See, Christ Was Wounded for Our Sake (KABODE)
April: Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks (CHURCH STREET)
May: Here, from All Nations (O QUANTA QUALIA)

Emily R. Brink (embrink@calvin.edu) is Senior Research Fellow for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and former editor of Reformed Worship.


Reformed Worship 12 © June 1989, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.