Q: How do you know a hymn lyric is written by an Englishman?
A: It’s simultaneously proud and self-deprecating.
Yes, folks, John Andrew Storey – a beloved English Unitarian hymn writer – manages to write a very English lyric here. And it’s not that I disagree with any of it; in fact, I am now thinking about using it for our wrap up service about our conversation with world religions.
It’s just that last verse that made me chuckle at the Englishness of it. (For those who want another example of what I mean, watch Hugh Grant’s character in Four Weddings and a Funeral, or the comedy of Jon Richardson or Jack Whitehall, or any modern British panel show, really.)
But I digress. This is a pretty good lyric for getting the point across. I’m not sure it’s an inspiring hymn – I certainly wouldn’t use it as a closer, especially with the minor-key Southern Harmony tune Distress. But sometimes I think we need to spell it out, because I think sometimes a little less metaphor for congregational singing helps the singing part, especially if we’re trying to make a point.
Anyway, here’s our hymn:
Our faith is but a single gem upon a rosary of beads;
the thread of truth which runs through them supports our varied human needs.
Confucian wisdom, Christian care, the Buddhist way of self-control,
the Muslim’s daily call to prayer are proven pathways to the goal.
From many lips, in every age, the truth eternal is proclaimed
by Western saint, and Eastern sage, and all the good, however named.
Beside the noblest of our race our lives as yet cannot compare:
may we at length their truth embrace and in their sacred mission share.
I must admit, I especially like that Storey puts us on “a rosary of beads.” I don’t have negative associations with rosaries, so for me, it makes us as worthy of prayer and attention as any other. Well done, sir.
Apologies for the shortness – I awakened early and now must prepare to preach at a washing of feet and hands service for Maundy Thursday. I’m excited for the opportunity to bring some Brother Sun into an AME Zion church.