In the Depth of Winter's Darkness; Lord of the Universe; And Jesus Said; To Christ Whose Hands Will Bless

Joy Patterson is one of several contemporary women hymn writers whose hymns are included in recent hymnals. In fact, no fewer than six women writers have had their works collected and published in the past few years (see box on p. 29). On the pages that follow Joy Patterson introduces her own work and that of three other living female hymn writers.

Patterson attributes her love of music to the nurturing atmosphere in both church and school choirs where she grew up in LaGrange, Illinois. Her love for language was stimulated by her studies in French; she was a Fullbright scholar at the Universite de Strasbourg (France) and taught French at the college level. She currently lives in Wassau, Wisconsin, is an elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and served on the committee that prepared The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990). She has seven texts in that hymnal and hymns in several others as well (including one in the Psalter Hymnal). As a hymn writer, she is concerned with "the unity and inclusiveness of the church, peace, justice, and the stewardship of the earth."


During Advent we look forward to God's coming among us. We watch and wait in hope, make ourselves ready, and expect the revelation of God's promise. We celebrate again the mystery of Immanuel, God-with-us, who came and is to come.

In the fall of 1990, I was part of a small liturgy-writing group preparing worship services for Advent. After several weeks' encounter with beloved passages from Isaiah, Luke, and John, I discovered Advent images taking verse form in my mind. "In the Depth of Winter's Darkness" was one of the results. The familiar SICILIAN MARINERS played in my mind as I wrote, but I was delighted by a hymnal editor's suggestion of setting my text to BRYN CALFARIA. This majestic Welsh tune with its swelling tide of alleluias complements the power of "Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!" paraphrased from Revelation 22.

William Owen (1814-1893) composed this powerful tune, which Erik Routley described as "a piece of Celtic rock." The meter of bryn CALFARIA, 87 87 47 is a characteristically Welsh form in which the four-syllable line, and sometimes the final line, are repeated. (John Hughes's stirring cwm rhondda is another example of this meter.) The son of a slate miner, Owen was born in Bangor and spent most of his life in his native Caernarvonshire.

Since BRYN CALFARIA may not be a tune familiar to your congregation, you may wish to begin teaching "In the Depth of Winter's Darkness" with an organ prelude. Michael Burkhardt has written two settings of this tune, contained in Five Easter Season Hymn Improvisations (MorningStar 10-403) and Easy Hymn Settings (MorningStar 10-415). A setting by Paul Manz is available in Improvisations for the Easter Season, Set 1 (MorningStar 910-402). D. DeWitt Wasson's Free Harmonizations of Hymn Tunes by Fifty American Composers (Hinshaw) includes a setting by John Becker.

"In the Depth of Winter's Darkness" can be sung as a hymn concertato using the following format:

A short organ intonation introduces the trumpet, which plays the tune through once before the congregation begins stanza 1.

Stanza 1: unison—choir/congregation (or choir only)
Stanza 2: choir—SATB
Stanza 3: first system, women; second system, men; refrain, choir/congregation
Stanza 4: unison—choir/congregation; trumpet descant


Epiphany, the revealing of the Light, has been associated since the fifth century in Western Christendom with the coming of the Magi to behold the Christ child. In worship we explore themes of Christ as the world's true light, and the life and ministry of Jesus as revealing the light of God. "Lord of the Universe, Hope of the World" encompasses in four stanzas the broad sweep of Jesus' life, ministry, and victory over death; our response to that life; and a look forward to Christ's coming again.

Margaret Clarkson tells us that this hymn came out of a competition she could not enter—a contest among InterVarsity student groups for a hymn on the theme of the 1973 Urbana missions conference, "Jesus Christ—Lord of the Universe, Hope of the World." The theme spoke strongly to her, but she held herself back from writing on it since adults were not eligible. After several months of this self-containment, she received a letter from the conference director, with the words she had been trying to ignore printed in large type across the letterhead: "Jesus Christ—Lord of the Universe, Hope of the World." This time the floodgates broke, and words came pouring out faster than she could write them down. In a span of two or three hours, the hymn was finished. She tells us:

I was shaken to the core, and utterly exhausted. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I write my hymns very slowly, often very painfully; many weeks, even months, pass before I achieve their final form. These words were complete, almost perfect in every way. I knew I had not acted in this matter— I had been "acted upon" by the Holy Spirit of God in a way J have never experienced before or since.
-Margaret Clarkson, A Singing Heart

Not knowing what to do with the hymn, Clarkson sent it to the conference director with a letter explaining what had happened. She offered it for whatever use might be made of it. One of the winning competition hymns was sung each night, but "Lord of the Universe" was used as the convention hymn. Clarkson states that none of her other hymns has ever received such a tremendous— and instantaneous—response. She concludes: "All I can say is that God had something he wanted said, and he impressed me into his service to say it. It was his doing, not mine."

Born in western Canada, Margaret Clarkson grew up and was educated in Toronto, where she now lives in retirement. She learned to love the great hymns of the church as a very young child and had her first poem published when she was only ten years old. A teacher for thirty-eight years, she has struggled throughout her life with chronic pain from arthritis and disabling migraine headaches. In the writing of hymns, poems, books, and essays, she has given voice to the faith that earned her through countless hours of pain. Her hymns have been sung all around the world.

William P. Rowan composed STONEHENGE as a setting of "Lord of the Universe" for inclusion in the Psalter Hymnal, choosing that tune name because of the massiveness of the text. A graduate of Southern Illinois University and the University of Michigan, Rowan is director of music ministries at Saint Mary Cathedral in Lansing, Michigan. He has composed hymn tunes, anthems, and organ works, and has served as a teacher for hymn-writing workshops of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. His tunes are also collected in Together Met, Together Bound (Selah, 1993).

The large scope of "Lord of the Universe," as well as the length of the tune, invites some sort of antiphonal singing. Following a unison first stanza, treble voices might sing the second stanza and men's voices the third stanza, with all joining on the refrain. Given the tessitura, it may be useful to divide the singers by location—for example, east side/west side. (It may be preferable to have the choir sing the first stanza in unison, with the congregation joining on the second stanza. The third stanza could be divided by asking one group to sing the first two systems and another to sing systems three and four, with everyone joining at the fifth system.)

The fourth stanza should be unison. Play the entire hymn as an introduction, with a trumpet (if available) playing the melody. The trumpeter could play the descant on the final stanza.


In a time when biblical illiteracy is widespread, it is doubly important for Christians to reinforce their study and knowledge of the Bible by singing the Scriptures. "And Jesus Said" retells in simple language three parables from Luke 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (or "prodigal") son. The writer, Gracia Grindal, teaches pastoral theology and ministry at Luther-Northwestern Theological Seminary and is a noted poet and hymn writer. As a member of the text committee for the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), she made new English translations of hymns in German, Latin, and Norwegian. Her hymns, paraphrases, and translations appear in many denominational hymnals. Grindal frequently teaches courses and workshops in hymn writing. Her publication Lessons in Hymnwriting (see box on p. 32) has been of great benefit to many North American hymn writers, including this writer.

Gracia Grindal is extraordinarily skilled at paraphrasing Scripture faithfully in verse form. She uses plain language and no "fillers." (As one who has tried to write paraphrases, I can attest to the difficulty of this task!) Narrative in style and unrhymed, "And Jesus Said" has its unity in the repeated opening phrase, "And Jesus said our God is like . . ." and the refrain, "Rejoice, rejoice with me, rejoice!" In writing the tune, I tried to mirror the plain language of the text with a simple melody and spare accompaniment.

A children's choir might enjoy teaching "And Jesus Said" to the congregation. The first time the hymn is used, have the children sing the refrain and then ask the congregation to join them on the repeat. If your congregation begins worship with a time of hymn singing, that would be a good time to teach the refrain. During worship the children could sing the verses, with the congregation joining on the refrain. If you have a few secure singers, the verses might be done as solos or by a small group, having the rest of the children join on the second measure of the third system.


Increasingly in recent years Christians have sought hymns that relate our faith to problems of contemporary life. Shirley Erena Murray responded to such a need in "To Christ Whose Hands Will Bless." Written, she tells us, with a friend's sickness and depression in mind, this prayer for healing of the mind and the emotions seemed to be widely applicable to our life today, but it was printed without music. I tried to write an accessible tune so that this compassionate hymn could be sung readily in situations of stress and pain. It is particularly appropriate for a service of healing, or for use by support groups.

Shirley Murray, a fourth-generation New Zealander, has been a teacher of French and classics, a producer of hymn programs for radio, and a researcher for the New Zealand Parliament. A Presbyterian with strong ecumenical ties, she served on the editorial board for Alleluia Aotearoa, the all-New Zealand hymnal published in 1993. Her texts have appeared in hymnals in Asia, Australia, Great Britain, and the United States. (Five Murray hymns were included in the Presbyterian Hymnal 1990.)

The hymns of Shirley Murray are an energizing breeze sweeping through English-language hymnody. In addition to hymns of personal faith, she writes about non-violence, inclusiveness, and the stewardship of creation. Gentleness, peacemaking, and unity in Christ are recurring themes. Her vivid images and contemporary language, sometimes expressing themselves in unusual meters and often crying out for fresh tunes, have inspired tune writers whose names are new to most North American ears: Colin Gibson, Jillian Bray, and I-to Loh, among others.

Among the many things she gives us to think about, Shirley Murray's southern-hemisphere frame of reference holds up some of our traditional Advent-Christmas-Epiphany imagery to a different light. Where December and January are the height of summer, it's hard to identify with "See Amid the Winter's Snow!" Murray has given southern-hemisphere Christians new language for celebrating the seasons of the church year in harmony with the natural seasons around them. To all of us she has given new metaphors for the ways in which God deals with humankind. Shirley Murray's gifts call us to reexamine all our hymn-writing—and hymn-singing— assumptions.



In addition to the four women hymn writers featured in this issue, three other women have also recently published collections of their hymns. All the collections listed on these pages are available from The Hymn Society Book Service, fax (817) 921-7333 or call (800) THE HYMN.

Patterson, Joy E Come, You People of the Promise, (Hope, 1994) $4.95. Foreword by Carl Daw. Twenty-nine hymns with text and/or music by Patterson.

Dunstan, Sylvia. In Search of Hope and Grace, (G.I.A., 1991; 40 hymns and gospel songs; $9.95) and Where the Promise Shines (G.I.A., 1995; 17 additional hymns; $7.95). The collected hymns of this late Canadian pastor (1955-1993).

Duck, Ruth. Dancing in the Universe, (G.I.A., 1992) $14.95. New hymns by this theologian, writer, and poet.

Clarkson, Margaret. A Singing Heart, (Hope, 1987) 203 pp. $11.95. Foreword by Donald Hustad. Twenty pages of this Canadian writer's autobiography and approach to writing hymns. Brief notes and suggested tunes with every text.

Grindal, Gracia. We Are One in Christ: Hymns, Paraphrases and Translations, (Selah, 1996). She has also published Lessons in Hymnwriting, ©1986,1991, (The Hymn Society, 1986, 1991) $3.95.

Whitney, Rae E. With Joy Our Spirits Sing, (Selah, 1995) 125 pp. $12.00. Over two hundred of Whitney's hymns, paraphrases, ballads, and Scripture songs.

Murray, Shirley Erena. In Every Corner Sing, (Hope, 1992) $11.95. Eighty-four hymns by this poet from New Zealand, all set to music. And Every Day in Your Spirit, (Hope, 1996).

Joy F. Patterson, a hymn writer who lives in Wassau, Wisconsin, serves as an elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and was a member of the committee that prepared The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990).


Reformed Worship 41 © September 1996, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.