Presentation by Jim Rogers on July 22, 2018

The Hymnal 1982

This presentation is a bit different from those we have had in the past few years as it is about our hymnal and the hymns that are part of our service today.

The beginning of the hymnal is all service music.  Music to accompany various prayers and parts of our services such as the canticles and some of the creeds that have been set to music.

The hymns follow from Hymn 1 to Hymn 720 and then there are indexes covering copyrights, authors, translations, and sources.  Then, indexes of composers, arrangers, and sources for both service music and hymns.  It is here you’ll find names like Johann Sebastian Bach, Beethoven, Thomas Aquinas, Handel, Hyde, and Arthur Seymour Sullivan who wrote the music for “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Welcome Happy Morning, Age to Age shall say” that we sing at Easter.  He also wrote a lot of other things with his musical partner, W.S. Gilbert, such as, “The Mikado” and H.M.S. Pinafore.”

I am sure you have all noticed in the lower left corner of each hymn, the name of the person who wrote the words above the name of the person who wrote the music and the name of the music itself, as well as the lifespan of both writers.  Sometimes you will see the name of the translator and or the arranger too.

You are welcome to follow the presentation in your hymnal if you would like.

We have already sung our first hymn, # 687, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”  Note Martin Luther wrote both the words and music.  [See 688 and note Johann Sebastian Bach added some harmony.]  Frederick Henry Hedge translated Martin Luther’s words into English.

Martin Luther was not only a reformer, Bible translator, political leader, preacher, and theologian; he was also a musician and was born in that region of Germany that was known for its music and musicians.

This is Luther’s most famous hymn and is based on Psalm 46 (pg. 649 BCP).

Today’s gradual was Hymn # 493, “Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

The words for this were written by Charles Wesley, who along with his brother John is credited with founding the “Methodist” movement, even though both remained Anglicans throughout their lives.  Charles overcame his bad temper and unfortunate drinking habit to become one of the world’s most prolific hymn writers.

Charles celebrated the anniversary of his conversion by writing an 18-verse hymn that he called “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion.”  Verse 7 began “Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

Charles often allowed himself to be locked in Newgate prison with condemned men on nights before their execution and said he once heard: “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Him with all of them.”

In the 1767 hymnbook, the 7th verse was made the first.  Congregations today sing verses 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the original 18 verses.

Hymn # 608, “Eternal Father Strong to Save.”

Eternal Father strong to save is based on Psalm 121, which is often called “The Traveler’s Psalm”, as it refers to the comings and goings of God’s people.  The last verse of the psalm is, “The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.”

Eternal Father Strong to Save is also called the “Navy Hymn” and it was Franklin Roosevelt’s favorite hymn, sung at his funeral.  It was also played as John F. Kennedy’s casket was carried up the steps of the Capital.

We don’t know much about the author William Whiting except that he wrote it as a prayer for a friend who was getting ready to sail to America.

The music was composed by a famous musician John B. Dykes, who called it “Melita” after the island on which St. Paul was shipwrecked in Acts 27.

You will note each verse is addressed differently: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Trinity.

Our Communion hymn, fittingly, is # 693 “Just as I am”

The words of this hymn were written by Charlotte Elliot, who was an embittered woman living in the seashore town of Brighton, England, who said, “If God loved me, He would not have treated me this way.”

In May of 1822, the Elliot’s were visited by Dr. Cesar Malon and Charlotte had a violent outburst.  So, in conversation with Dr. Malon, he told her if she wanted to get her problems under control, she should give herself to God just as she is with her fighting, fears, hates, loves, pride, and shame.  And so, she did.  She lived to be 82 and wrote about 150 other hymns.

Her health was never good, however, after her death, the family found more than 1000 letters thanking her for writing this hymn.

The Recessional hymn today is hymn 680, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

Although Isaac Watts wrote this hymn in 1719, it was played on the BBC as soon as WWII was declared and it was also sung at Churchill’s funeral.

Isaac Watt’s life’s project was to adopt the Book of Psalms for worship.  By 1719, he had worked his way through the 150 Psalms, framing them in singing form.

Isaac learned Latin when he was four, Greek at nine, and Hebrew at 13, and he loved music.  He graduated from college at 19.  After a heated discussion with his father about the dismal music at church, his father challenged him to write his own, so he did – the first of 600.

There are 17 of Watt’s hymns in our current hymnal, one of which we sing every Christmas season, # 100, “Joy to the World.”


I hope this presentation has helped us all to have a bit better appreciation of our hymnal and that we will now be able to make an even more joyful noise unto the Lord!

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