By Keith Weber
What do WE think? What do WE believe?
These turned out to be central questions in a six-week long, hymn-writing project we did at Salem Church in Houston as part of the community Lenten observance in the Spring of 2014. Moreover:
Is THAT the right word? What other word do we REALLY mean?
Any hymnal from any age is an act of collective witness. How we experience our lives in faith, our lives in growth, our lives in conflict, our lives in questioning gets filtered through writers, composers, editors and publishers and placed in the hands of our sisters and brothers in order that they may join voice with us in clarity and heart.
And as with all writing, you need an idea to start with. We were looking at Luther’s Short Catechism, specifically his look at each sentence of The Lord’s Prayer, as part of the weekly Wednesday-night worship and so we thought: let’s write a hymn which reveals what we as a community ACTUALLY THINK about each line of that prayer.
And so we began.
For the sake of getting started, I chose the meter, 220.127.116.11 – that is, eight syllables, followed by six syllables followed by eight followed by six – and the rhyme scheme – ABAB – first and third and second and fourth lines rhyming. This is a common meter and would give us a large variety of tunes to work with when we were done.
As you can see from the photos, we started to free-associate about key words, key feelings, key phrases. And once we were on to some sort of an idea – we especially loved that in the word ‘YOUR’ is the word ‘OUR,’ something that calls us into God’s will IN community.
Each verse took no more than half an hour, and we were delighted and enriched to discover what, precisely, our shared beliefs were. Once we could get EVERYONE in the room to sign on to a sentence, we had something.
Praise be to God for the gifts of poetry and music and conversation! Finished product [except the sixth verse which needs work, is below! We sang it to AZMON, the tune of “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing,” which seemed somehow appropriate.
AS IN THE ‘YOUR’ THERE LIES AN ‘OUR’
As in the ‘Your” there lies an “Our,”
So teach us when we pray
To see the heaven which is now,
Our unity, Your way.
With various eyes we visualize
Yours kingdom here on Earth:
With gratitude we realize
Each one of us has worth.
Your plan for us we want to know
But fail to comprehend;
Our wills collide, our hubris shows,
Lord help our ways to mend.
Equip us with the things we need
To guide us on Your Way,
We all are lost, O help us heed
Your word to us each day.
Forgiving us, you let us see
The work we need to do,
To give each other minds set free,
Released to live anew.
Who knows? Maybe is doesn’t NEED a verse six. What do you think? Let me know.