Hymn by Hymn

STLT#322, Thanks Be for These

One of the delights of being an active member and now religious professional in the Saint Lawrence District (upstate NY and part of Ontario) is getting to know Richard and Joyce Gilbert a little. They are so much a part of my story, in the way peanuts are a part of a Snickers bar – not a constant presence, but the nuggets of experience and wisdom are priceless. From Dick’s telling of how simple his fellowshipping process was (after completing seminary, he had dinner with denominational leaders. They talked, laughed, ate, and at the end, stood up and shook Dick’s hand, saying “welcome to fellowship.”) to learning about the founding of the UU Musicians Network over dinner with Joyce, to various interactions, workshops, and worship over the years. And many slim volumes of Dick’s meditations – edited by Joyce – sit on my shelf, inherited from Linda Hoddy, who bought some and inherited others from Charles Sapp.

One of the collections is called Thanks Be for These – named for a meditation from which this lyric is based. That Joyce is also credited suggests she helped set the words to a sweet Hungarian tune (Transylvania). And this song is sweet indeed:

Thanks be for these, life’s holy times,
moments of grief, days of delight;
triumph and failure intertwine,
shaping our vision of the right.

Thanks be for these, for birth and death;
life in between with meaning full;
holy becomes the quickened breath;
we celebrate life’s interval.

Thanks be for these, ennobling art,
images welcome to our sight;
music caressing ear and heart,
inviting us to loftier height.

Thanks be for these, who question why;
who noble motives do obey;
those who know how to live and die;
comrades who share this holy way.

Thanks be for these, we celebrate;
sing and rejoice, our trust declare;
press all our faith into our fate;
bless now the destiny we share.

Even if the Gilberts hadn’t written it, I would love this hymn. It’s such a loving prayer of gratitude for the wide ranging experiences of our lives. It’s setting in the tune is perfect – a tune that is joyful but tender. I use this maybe too often – most certainly at Thanksgiving, but also in other services.

If you don’t know it, please learn it. It’s one of my favorites.

And it always reminds me of the precious gift that is Richard and Joyce Gilbert. Thanks be for them, too.

2 thoughts on “STLT#322, Thanks Be for These

  1. Indeed, thanks be for Dick and Joyce. I know that they collaborated HARD on this hymn, from what Dick has said about it.

    I love this one, too. One of the reasons is that the harmony parts are easy to learn, so it’s a good one for a choir that lacks self-confidence to sing as an anthem.

  2. A pianist at my former church would sometimes stop playing on the last verse or two, allowing the congregation to sing a capella. It makes for a beautiful moment, since the melody and harmonies are simple but rich.

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