The [not so] crowded ways of life

“Where cross the [not so] crowded ways of life…”

“Where cross the crowded ways of life,
Where sound the cries of race and clan,
Above the noise of selfish strife,
We hear your voice, O Son of man.”

“Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life”
by Frank Mason North
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 427

The text for this hymn first appeared as “A Prayer for the Multitudes” in the June 1903 and later was made into the hymn that it is today. New York City served as the backdrop for the writing of this hymn and its text showed the concern for people in poverty, workers rights, and the plight of women and children.

Rev. North was the co-author of the Methodist Social Creed (1908)* which came about as a part of the Social Gospel movement led by Walter Rauschenbusch, whose “A Theology of the Social Gospel” (1917) later codified.

Though this hymn was written over a 100 years ago, it feels as salient and needed as ever.

May we continue to hear the Voice of Christ above the noise of our day.

*historical info and details from C. Michael Hawn who is University Distinguished Professor of Church Music, Perkins School of Theology, SMU—in his article for UMCDiscipleship.org.

church #music #drone #atlanta #covid19 #atl #ngumc #umc #hymns #socialcreed

“Why Stand So Far Away My God”

“Why Stand So Far Away My God” — my homily in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting and devastation in Puerto Rico — with musical selections of “Why Stand So Far Away MY God” (Ruth Duck) and Prayer of St. Francis (Trinity Anglican) with Atticus Hicks. The homily was given on Oct 8th, 2017 at the MidWeek Communion Service (Weds at 5pm) at Oak Grove United Methodist Church (ogumc.org).

Our continued prayers with the people of Las Vegas and Puerto Rico and friends Glen and Bill and their teams serving and working there.

chords & lyrics:
Why Stand So Far Away My God (fws 2180) by Ruth Duck
Prayer of St Francis (G) by Trinity Anglican

 

re-Hymn: In the Garden (of Gethsemane)

In thinking about preaching this year on Good Friday, the idea came to me to create a minor-keyed arrangement of the classic hymn “In the Garden (I come the Garden Alone).”

So often the music and key of a song can greatly impact the words and meaning. After all, “the medium IS the message” and the WAY we communicate deeply influences WHAT we are trying to communicate.*

In thinking about preaching this year on Good Friday, the idea came to me to create a minor-keyed arrangement of the classic hymn “In the Garden (I come the Garden Alone).” This much beloved (and yet also critiqued as being over sentimental or potentially romantic**) hymn from C. Austin Miles was composed in 1912 and made it into our United Methodist Hymnals soon thereafter.

This re-arranging of this hymn text is heavily influenced by re-imagining the text as written about the Garden of Gethsemane (in Matthew 26:36-46) instead of the resurrection garden encounter (in John 20:11-18) and is also influenced by Black Liberation theologian James Cone‘s God of the Oppressed. Placing this hymn tune’s normal major progression in G C D into and Em Am Bm minor progression and adapting the melody leave it with a haunting, appropriate sense of what it means to sing about being with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that fateful night just before his arrest and subsequent crucifixion. Here is a rough version of the chords written out.

In the Garden (of Gethsemane) from joseph mcbrayer on Vimeo.

I’ll be singing and preaching more about this hymn at the Emory Office of Spiritual and Religious Life Good Friday service April 14th, 12noon at Cannon Chapel, Emory University.

___
Footnotes:

*Media theorist and author Professor Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Massage (New York: Bantam Books), 1967, 10.

**Choir master and hymnal editor Carlton R. Young, Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon Press), 1993, 432-433.

O Young and Fearless Prophet

O young and fearless Prophet, we need thy presence here,
amid our pride and glory to see thy face appear;
once more to hear thy challenge above our noisy day,
again to lead us forward along God’s holy way.

O Young and Fearless Prophet (Passion Chorale) from joseph mcbrayer on Vimeo.

Pastors, musicians, students, and friends, as we enter the season of Lent (a time of repentance and remembering our humanity)  I offer this timely hymn: “O Young and Fearless Prophet” (written in 1931) set to the Passion Chorale (1601 — O Sacred Head Now Wounded) for our Lenten Journey:

“O Young and Fearless Prophet” (text by S. Ralph Harlow, 1931) set to the tune of Passion Chorale (Hans L. Hassler, 1601, arr. Joseph McBrayer — .pdf below)

“O young and fearless Prophet of ancient Galilee,
thy life is still a summons to serve humanity;
to make our thoughts and actions less prone to please the crowd,
to stand with humble courage for truth with hearts uncowed.

We marvel at the purpose that held thee to thy course
while ever on the hilltop before thee loomed the cross;
thy steadfast face set forward where love and duty shone,
while we betray so quickly and leave thee there alone.

O help us stand unswerving against war’s bloody way,
where hate and lust and falsehood hold back Christ’s holy sway;
forbid false love of country that blinds us to his call,
who lifts above the nations the unity of all.

Stir up in us a protest against our greed for wealth,
while others starve and hunger and plead for work and health;
where homes with little children cry out for lack of bread,
who live their years sore burdened beneath a gloomy dread.

O young and fearless Prophet, we need thy presence here,
amid our pride and glory to see thy face appear;
once more to hear thy challenge above our noisy day,
again to lead us forward along God’s holy way.”


S. Ralph Harlow (1885-1972), a congregationalist and practitioner of the Social Gospel, wrote this hymn on the back of a menu in 1931 during the Great Depression*–the United Methodist hymnal committee didn’t include stanza 5 in either the 1935 or 1966 Hymnal edition as the editor told Harlow: “the church is not ready to sing that.” Harlow told him it wasn’t “as radical as the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55, which is sung in the Methodist service” and stanza 5 eventually made it into our 1989 hymnal.*

The epiphanal moment leading me to set this text to PASSION CHORALE came in during Lent of 2014 when the hymn text was an ideal fit for a worship series on Race and the Church, but the hymn tune in 13.13 13.13  was unfamiliar. I realized that any tune in 7.6 7.6 D could work and PASSION CHORALE fit the text and the occasion quite well serving as a prelude of the coming terminus of Lent in Good Friday when we most often sing “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”

Another stanza that didn’t make it is below — may we live into this stanza and the call heard in this hymn from our “Young and Fearless Prophet.”

“Create in us the splendor that dawns when hearts are kind.
That knows not race or color as boundaries of the mind;
That learns to value beauty, in heart, or brain, or soul,
And longs to bind God’s children into one perfect whole.”

*source: Carlton R. Young, Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1993, pages 537-538.

here is a chord sheet of my arrangement: o-young-and-fearless-prophet-passion-chorale

“This is My Song” (July 4th)

The hymn “This is My Song” serves as a reminder of the love God has for all people–not just for this nation or another nation. On this July 4th, may we be mindful of all the people in this nation and other nations who are still striving for justice and for peace.

The Fourth of July brings up many themes of patriotism: we celebrate our United States of America and demonstrate our pride in our nation–there are some instances of appropriately and carefully crafted celebration and pride, while other instances seem to exalt our nation over and against all other nations. The hymn, “This is my song” reminds us that ALL nations are loved by God and that we as individuals or as a nation do not have any more or less favor in God’s eyes. As the author puts it, it is “a song of peace for lands afar and mine.” The familiar tune Finlandia , by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, was written in 1899, as a covert protest against the oppressive Russian forces, and is a much beloved symphonic piece.

The 4th of July began as a day of celebration of our independence from the tyranny of the British empire upon the American colonies. Those many years ago our forefathers and foremothers gave birth to a land where religious and political freedoms were guaranteed and that all people had civil rights (although we are *still* working on getting these parts right some MANY years later).

The first two verses were written by American poet Lloyd Stone who wrote a number of books of poetry, two children’s books, and served as chapter president of the National Society of Arts and Letters. The final verse was written by Methodist theologian Georgia Harkness, who was one of the first women to hold a full professorship at a U.S. theological seminary--she taught at Garrett & Pacific School of Religion to name a few. Harkness was a leader in the ecumenical movement and was important in securing ordination for women in the Methodist Church. Most of her hymn writing was in the form of prayers and the final verse of “This is My Song” is a fine example of her work and her prayer for God’s peace to be known in “all earth’s kingdoms.”

Below is my own arrangement of “This is My Song,” which serves as a reminder of the love God has for all peoplenot just for this nation or another nation. On this July 4th, may we be mindful of all the people in this nation and other nations who are still striving for justice and for peace. “Si quieres paz, lucha por la justica” “If you want peace, work for justice.” –Pope John Paul II

“This is My Song” Lloyd Stone/Georgia Harkness, 1939 // UMHymnal #437, Finlandia, 1899 , J. Sibelius
This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
Myself I give thee, let thy will be done.

the chord sheet of this arrangement: This Is My Song (Finlandia in C)
(fair use)

*resources used:
the Commentary on the United Methodist Hymnal by Carlton Young
The Hymns of the United Methodist Hymnal by Diana Sanchez
Wikipedia (mostly the sources in the footnotes!)

Wade In the Water (live)

A live recording of a bluesy version of this beautiful spiritual from this past Sunday.

A live recording of a bluesy version of this beautiful spiritual from this past Sunday (04.29) at The Gathering @5:50pm ( a new worship service at Glenn Memorial UMC where I’m helping to coordinate the music for the worship).