May 12, 2013
On this Mother’s Day, I had the chance to sing a new hymn whose words (and music) I like a great deal.
Hymn singing is one of the pleasures of attending a United Church of Christ (UCC) church. Ellen is a member and sings in the choir, so many Sundays I worship at First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine rather than at Brunswick Friends Meeting.
The majority of hymns we sing are familiar, and satisfying for that reason. I pay attention to the words much more now more than when I was a young person growing up in a hymn-singing (Presbyterian) church. I notice the Bible verses that underlay many hymns, and I note how many were composed in the 19th century.
Occasionally we sing a hymn of recent composition. Today we sang “In the Midst of New Dimensions,” written in 1985 by an ordained Methodist minister named Julian Rush. The words are below. Rush, the text with the hymn says (but says no more), “has spent more than a decade as director of the Colorado AIDS project. He wrote this hymn on the theme of ‘diversity’ for a meeting of the Rocky Mountain Conference (United Methodist).”
I especially like the phrase “a world divided by our own self seeking schemes,” and the Quakerly reference to each human being as “Each a gift in your creation, each a love song to be sung.” I also appreciate the premise that the challenges we face are new ones.
In the Midst of New Dimensions
Words and Music by Julian Rush (1985)
In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways. Who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering in their separate ways?
[Refrain] God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar, We your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever, now and ever more.
Through the flood of starving people, warring factions and despair,Who will lift the olive branches? Who will light the flame of care?
As we stand a world divided by our own self seeking schemes, Grant that we, your global village might envision wider dreams
We are man and we are woman, all persuasions, old and young, Each a gift in your creation, each a love song to be sung.
Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain, May your blazing phoenix spirit, resurrect the church again.
The First United Methodist Church in Portland, OR sang the hymn about a year ago. This note was in the church bulletin:
A note about our closing hymn, “In the Midst of New Dimensions:”
This hymn was written by Rev. Julian Rush, a United Methodist minister who served churches in Dallas, Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs for 17 years, until he acknowledged his own identity as a gay man.
When he came out, the United Methodist church in Boulder decided he was no longer fit to be their minister, and stopped paying his salary. In 1981 Bishop Melvin Wheatley appointed Julian to St. Paul United Methodist Church in Denver. This was a small church, which already had a pastor and had very little money. But they decided to accept the appointment of Rev. Rush as a public gesture of support for the gay community, and as a statement about their commitment to social justice.
In 1984, St. Paul UMC became one of the first three churches in the nation to become a Reconciling Congregation, believing that all persons are children of God and are welcome in the church.
This hymn is Julian’s own record of the struggle to be honest and open, even in the face of rejection which came as a result of his integrity. Following the church’s inhospitable reaction to Julian, he wrote this loving and affirming hymn. What a powerful lesson for us all about what it means to love God – and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
(thanks to Paul Nickell for this brief hymn history)