A Hymn for Peace

A hymn that I have submitted for the Jubilate ‘Hymn for Peace’ competition.

Tune is Love Unknown, by John Ireland.

Hope for the world’s despair:
we feel the nations’ pain;
can anything repair
this broken earth again?
For this we pray:
in every place
a spark of grace
to light the way.

Wisdom for all who bear
the future in their hand,
entrusted with the care
of this and every land.
When comes the hour,
O Lord, we pray,
inspire the way
we spend our power.

Honour for all who’ve paid
War’s painful, bitter price,
When duty called they made
Their greatest sacrifice.
Their memory
Will never cease
To cry for peace
And harmony.

Ease for the troubled mind
In endless conflict caught,
Each soul that cannot find
The peace beyond all thought.
May they be blessed
With healing balm
for inner calm
and perfect rest.

Love for the human heart:
When hate grows from our fears
And inwardly we start
To turn our ploughs to spears.
Help us to sow
Love’s precious seed
In word and deed,
That peace may grow.

Words © Ally Barrett / Jubilateadministered by Jubilate Hymns Ltd  copyrightmanager@jubilatehymns.co.uk

New hymn, to celebrate 100 years since (some) women were able to vote in the UK

The following words were written to the tune ‘Ewing’ (Jerusalem the golden), at the request of St Martin in the Fields, for a BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship broadcast in February 2018.  It would also go to pretty much any 77676D iambic tune, of which there are many.

There came a generation
Who rose to claim the hour.
They broke oppression’s silence
By speaking the truth to power.
Their courage met with conflict,
Yet still their hearts were stirred,
Their sole determination
To make all voices heard.

They claimed a shared vocation
As stewards of this earth,
Affirming all God’s people
In dignity and worth.
May all our children’s children
Take their intended place
In all that God has purposed:
One equal, human race.

O God, in whose great kingdom
The first and last shall meet,
With love and justice freeing
The mighty from their seat;
May all your kingdom-builders
Continue true and strong,
Creating, in our own day,
A place where all belong.

With a few amendments (as in the version below) this hymn might also be suitable for occasions reflecting on issues of social justice and equality more generally:

In every generation
Some rise to claim the hour
and break oppression’s silence
By speaking the truth to power.
When courage meets with conflict
Our hearts must still be stirred,
Our sole determination
To make all voices heard.

We claim a shared vocation
As stewards of this earth,
Affirming all God’s people
In dignity and worth.
May all our children’s children
Take their intended place
In all that God has purposed:
One equal, human race.

O God, in whose great kingdom
The first and last shall meet,
With love and justice freeing
The mighty from their seat;
May all your kingdom-builders
Continue true and strong,
Creating, in our own day,
A place where all belong.

I was delighted when the lovely @onehymnaweek chose to set these words – you can listen to it here:

Carol Service homily

There’s a story I heard of a meeting in heaven between three archangels – they had been given by God the task of working how how to spread the good news of Jesus’ birth, and they couldn’t agree!

Gabriel said, “We should go round and tell everyone one at a time. The personal, individual approach worked very well with Mary and Joseph.”

Raphael said, “We should write it all down – that way there will be no mistakes.”

Michael said, “Swords and trumpets! We need swords and trumpets! Nothing less will do!”

But they all knew that they hadn’t really found the right answer yet.

After much discussion, they finally had an idea that they knew would work – it was brilliant, in fact.

“We will write a song!” they said, in excitement. “If we write a really good song, with just the right words, and a fabulous tune, and harmony that makes your heart sing, then we’ll only need to sing it to a few people – it’ll stay in their heads and they won’t be able to forget it – they’ll sing it in the shower, they’ll whistle it down the road, they’ll teach it to their friends, their family, their children. And before you know it, the whole world will know this wonderful news!”

So they did.

They went to a lonely hillside and sang their song to a group of shepherds under the stars – and they even let Michael have his trumpet. The Shepherds were filled with joy, and the song stayed with them – they sang it as they ran down the hill, and into the town, they sang it as the searched for the stable, and they even sang it very quietly as a lullaby when they found the baby at last. Then they went out rejoicing, and sang that song to anyone who would listen – and anyone who wouldn’t too!

The song worked so well that the news spread throughout the world. People sang the song to their family and friends and their children and their children’s children. The song was so good that we’re still singing it – or a version of it – 2000 years later.

That’s why we gather at a service like this. To sing together, to hear the story again in carols and scripture and to join our voices with the angels who are still singing in heaven.

Singing is how we learn, and remember this wonderful story. I bet we’d all be able to write out the words to ‘While shepherds watched’ more easily than the same story in Luke chapter 2!

Some carols were written for this very reason: Once in Royal David’s City was written by Mrs Alexander, a Sunday School teacher, who wrote a hymn for every line of the creed, to teach the children in her class the basics of the faith.

Saint Augustine said, “Anyone who sings, prays twice” – we don’t only learn the stories of the faith, we learn why they matter.

We learn that Jesus shares our sadness as well as our gladness – he weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice. We learn that we can hold those in need before God and know that our prayers are heard – because Jesus is already walking alongside them.

We learn that when we sing “Be near me Lord Jesus” we have already said a prayer, from out of our own needs, and we know that we are not alone.

We learn that when we think of all the complex needs of this troubled world, this isn’t too big a concern to bring to God, because the world belongs to God: we learn that the hopes and fears of all the years are met in the Christchild, on Christmas night and every night.

And we learn that we have an offering to make ourselves: we bring our voices to join with the angels’ song, and we bring our presence with one another in this place, and our love for one another and the world:

What can I give him
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
But what I have I give him:
Give my heart.

This Christmas we can offer ourselves, just as we are, to the one who has already given us everything.

A Hymn for St Catharine’s

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge for their vision and commitment to empowering young women through music (specifically, by means of their girls’ choir) which has enabled my daughter to have a first rate musical education and experience some things that I never had the chance to do at her age (or indeed ever!).
Here’s what I wrote for the College’s Commemoration of Benefactors service today. At the Director of Music’s request, the tune is chorale Schmucke Dich (usually sung to the words, Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness).

Solemn notes of tribute sounded:
Gratitude and celebration.
By such history surrounded:
Legacy of inspiration.
From that ground new growth is springing,
From those songs new voices singing;
Through each passing generation
Still our hope in God is founded.

All our life in wisdom growing,
God’s good purposes discerning;
Words and deeds of virtue flowing
Through the sacred gift of learning.
When the world seems lost to violence
Hope and love must break their silence,
Grace in human nature turning
To the truths that are worth knowing.

Blessings for our lifetime, lending
Grace for work and love and leisure,
Gladly spent, and gladly spending
all to find our heart’s true treasure.
Choice and chance unfold each story,
May our lives reflect God’s glory,
Then when time complete’s life’s measure
We may know a perfect ending.

Birmingham Diocese’s strategy document in metric verse. Because hymns.

Here and now we’re drawn together:
hold us all in one embrace.
Help us see, in one another,
difference as a gift of grace.
As each passing generation
worships you in fresh new ways,
join our songs with all creation,
lift our voice to sing your praise.

Lord, affirm our shared vocation:
may we bring your plans to birth,
build a church on Christ’s foundation,
fit to tend a troubled earth.
Growing, praying, sharing, learning,
deep in wisdom, broad in scope,
love-revealing, truth-discerning,
living out the gospel hope.

In your work of transformation
you are making all things new.
Stir our hearts’ imagination,
call us now to work with you.
As we live the Great Commission
all will find their part to play:
Send us out to share your mission,
joyful in the world today.

(tune: Abbot’s Leigh, or any suitable 8787D trochaic tune)