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New hymn collection reflects contemporary themes

11 February 2022


A small group gathered at Leeds Minster on July 2nd and 3rd to record a collection of new contemporary hymns entitled Until your earth is whole

A small group gathered at Leeds Minster on July 2nd and 3rd to record a collection of new contemporary hymns entitled Until your earth is whole

AN OPEN search for new hymns on contemporary social issues has resulted in a new collection, Until Your Earth is Whole, including a mixture of new music and existing hymn tunes, and by established and up-and-coming writers.

The search was launched a year ago by Jubilate, the Song and Hymn Writers Foundation. It wanted to “joyfully broaden the repertoire”, particularly in more mainstream churches, and sought inspiration from writers who were “not just grappling with the issues but also offering a distinctive Christian perspective . . . not just social comment but something that points to hope” (News, 26 February 2021).

The result is a collection of 12 hymns, each with a full text, piano score, video, and MP3 file for download. The project co-ordinator, Roger Peach, music director of St Andrew’s, Oxford, describes the collection as “encompassing heartfelt prayer, raw outpouring of lament, and faith-filled hope for the future. I pray it will provide fresh inspiration for worshippers far and wide.”

It includes “Redeemer and Lord of the earth”, words by Christopher Idle set to a new tune by Noël Tredinnick. On the issue of justice and hope, the second verse begins: “New plagues have infected our race; old warfare brings chaos and harm: but peace is a gift of your grace as storms are succeeded by calm.”

From another established writer, Martin Leckebusch, comes “A thousand voices clamour”, to the well-known tune Aurelia: “A thousand voices clamour to find a listening ear; a thousand pictures dazzle to make their message clear; the scientific journal, the musings of the sage, expand our endless learning, our information age.”

The nine issues that writers were asked to focus on included mental health, the refugee crisis, the environment, and truth. Mr Peach said on Monday: “We’ve seen some really challenging, thought-provoking texts. Some we have been able to match with familiar tunes, which makes them very easy to pick up, and others we have new tunes for as well.”

He describes the laments as particularly powerful, and the whole collection as “more prayerful and heartfelt than preachy”. There is a lament on depression by Kate Bluett and Keiko Ying: “Look on my heart, O Lord of light and dark; look on my soul and weep at what you see.”

Two hymns — ‘You made a universe so full of wonder” and “You came to raise the last and least” — come from Ally Barrett, “who is very poetic in her writing; so these are very strong”, Mr Peach said. He wrote the tune for the latter, and is pleased that it got through the assessment process.

Jubilate was able to get a small choir together to record the hymns and make videos, despite the restrictions of the past year. “There isn’t much generally that we have been able to do; so it’s very special to have been able to do this,” Mr Peach said.

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, said: “The current times call for new hymnody which is gentle, compassionate, challenging, and prophetic. Until Your Earth is Whole supplies exactly this. I hope the material is widely used.”

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