STLT#323, Break Not the Circle

Just before I opened the hymnal, I saw a Facebook post from a dear friend who asked ‘But what if this world runs out of lovers? What then?”

Then for me was opening the hymnal to this wonderful hymn, reminding us to draw the circle ever wider, because – as Susan Frederick Gray has reminded us, “no one is outside the circle of love.”

And to me, that’s our call. Right now, as we find ourselves shockingly having debates about Nazis and white supremacists, we also must find ourselves speaking out from this circle of enabling love, growing it ever wider, actively loving the hell – and the hate – out of this world.

This hymn is incredibly aspirational. Seemingly unattainable, in fact. Can there ever be this much love? And yet, the vision described by Fred Kahn (who also wrote lyrics for Almond Trees Renewed in Bloom is precisely what we need today.

Break not the circle of enabling love
where people grow, forgiven and forgiving;
break not that circle, make it wider still,
till it includes, embraces all the living.

Come, wonder at this love that comes to life,
where words of freedom are with humor spoken,
and people keep no score of wrong and guilt,
but will that human bonds remain unbroken.

Join then the movement of the love that frees,
till people of whatever race or nation
will truly be themselves, stand on their feet,
see eye to eye with laughter and elation.

A side note about the tune, written by the delightful Tom Benjamin (whose praises I have sung before): do you ever wonder why a tune has a particular – and sometimes unusual name? I suppose there are any number of reasons, often tied to the original lyrics, although some tunes get a name to honor a person or a place. Such is the case with this one, called Yaddo. I learned from Tom that he once spent a summer at an artist’s retreat at Yaddo, this incredible place with a gorgeous mansion and lovely gardens, and it was there – not 3 miles from my home congregation – where he wrote this tune. It is one that holds a special place in my heart because of the local connection.

Anyway. I love this hymn. I think it is exactly what we need to remember today as we show up on the side of good, the side of inclusion, the side of love.

Photo is part of this article from Lake George Magazine on Yaddo – a very interesting read!

One response to “STLT#323, Break Not the Circle”

  1. I like the text of this one, but we find that the melody lacks direction, and is difficult for congregational singing. The range of an octave is difficult for our people. I transpose it to B flat, but it’s still hard to climb up that scale.

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