Jan. 27, 2005
A UMNS Feature
By Tamie Ross*
In the aftermath of the world’s deadliest natural disaster, complexities abound.
will we help care for the injured and orphaned? Assist in burying the
dead? Bring food and healing and hope to survivors in the 12 countries
touching the Indian Ocean, where nearly 300,000 people have died and
millions have lost so much?
the call for prayer, donations and manpower, some United Methodists say
they have been moved to bring an offering of song to those who are
suffering as a result of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami.
seems so simple, the concept that a hymn could create healing when
wounds are deep and raw. Yet Dean McIntyre, director of music resources
for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, says the musical scores
arriving at his office bring a wonderful opportunity for expression to
those who will hear and sing them, as well as healing to their authors.
help us to pray when we cannot pray for ourselves," McIntyre says.
"That the creative process can be put to use to allow them some personal
healing and insight … it transcends the personal experience and becomes
explicable to us all."
McIntyre and David L.
Bone, executive director of the Fellowship of United Methodists in
Music and Worship Arts, say they also received many original hymns after
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.
The Rev. Gareth Hill
more persons writing hymns these days and the ability of the Internet
to disseminate them widely, we will see this happen more when human
events demand new expressions of our grief, pain or joy," Bone says.
expression of grief and healing through hymn writing is steeped in
history. Horatio Spafford wrote the popular hymn, "It Is Well With My
Soul," after learning his four daughters had drowned during an ocean
voyage from England to Europe.
Rev. Gareth Hill, 48, is a full-time minister for the Cornwall
Methodist District in Great Britain. He penned his hymn, "When Innocence
is Fractured," days after the tsunami hit.
says music was the link between his past and future, when he worked as a
journalist before entering the ministry several years go. During his
vocational transition, he wrote songs and hymns to express thoughts and
give them structure. Even now, he notes that hymn writing helps him work
through his own questions and fears.
well as being only too aware of the horror that the tsunami confronted
us with, I wanted to say something positive for Christians … to make
some kind of declaration that the waves couldn’t sweep away faith," Hill
The last line of
Hill’s four-stanza hymn, sung to the familiar Aurelia tune ("The
Church’s One Foundation"), reads: "In Christ our souls take refuge,
though not to hide from truth; We face each anguished question with
faith, if not with proof. We hear his wistful question, ‘And will you
leave me, too?’ Though all the world should crumble, we hope, O Christ,
McIntyre: "That line makes me want to sit for an hour and contemplate.
It is a fine example of truly beautiful hymn writing."
British Methodist minister, the Rev. Andrew Pratt of Manchester, has
written four hymns since the tsunami. Writing hymns is something he says
he does to help keep his emotions in check after a tragedy, since
losing his 22-year-old son in an accident five years ago.
something of this sort occurs, I plumb the depths of pain again as I
empathize with people," says Pratt, who was moved to write by images on
television news broadcasts.
trained marine biologist, Pratt says he understands something of the
science involved in this disaster. Still, he has no answers to the
suffering, as he writes in, "In Every Face We See the Pain."
"Then give us strength to rise again, enlivened by your hope, and for the present show your love and give us grace to cope."
Pratt, Dianne Empringham was affected by television reports showing
tsunami victims and survivors caught in murky water. Though she had
never written a hymn, she was moved to write "We Cry Out To You" in
hopes she could bring healing to fellow members of St. Paul United
Methodist Church in Conroe, Texas.
was touched so deeply that it was easier for me to write this,"
Empringham says. "If somehow I could help people deal with their pain,
to know that even in a time of disaster we can still cry out, then that
will be the measure of how good this hymn is."
Liles is another first-time hymn writer. Liles, as choir director of
First United Methodist Church in Mansfield, Ohio, says he is more
comfortable leading hymns.
when he read over the Rev. Randy Day’s prayer from Jan. 2, a prayer
that matched Liles’ own questioning of the large-scale loss of life, he
was inspired to put down his baton and pick up a pen. Day is top staff
executive of the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries.
"The song asks, ‘How can we trust?’ Liles says. "The question is, as resolved at the end of the hymn: ‘How can we not trust?’
would hope that this hymn might be something that could help in any
kind of a tragedy, be it the loss of a loved one or something along the
lines of the magnitude of the tsunami," Liles says. "To take a prayer
and give it music speaks to every part of the human heart."
*Ross is a freelance journalist based in Dallas.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.