November 10, 2014
At First Parish Church yesterday we sang a hymn written by Fred Pratt Green in 1970 called “For the Fruits of His Creation.” The words are lovely; the final verse concludes with these:
For the wonders that astound us,
For the truths that still confound us,
Most of all that love has found us,
Thanks be to God.
When I was growing up in a Presbyterian Church, I enjoyed singing hymns as much as I enjoyed any part of the regular worship service. Some hymns I liked more than others, of course, but I can’t say I paid much attention to the words and still less to who wrote the hymns.
As a Quaker drawn particularly to unprogrammed worship, hymns are less often a part of my worship. But some First Days I do go to a semi-programmed Friends Church in Durham, Maine, which always begins its worship with hymn singing, and once or twice a month Robbie and I go with my wife, Ellen, to First Parish, the UCC Church in Brunswick, where she sings in the choir. On these occasions I often find myself drawn to the hymns we sing.
Some, like Fred Pratt Green’s, simply speak to me. I find passages in the hymns that are helpful to me in prayer, as in this case: “For the wonders that astound us, For the truths that still confound us, Most of all that love has found us, Thanks be to God.” Those words capture something of what I want to say when I pray.
So thanks to Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000), a British Methodist Minister who wrote a number of hymns. “His hymns reflect his rejection of fundamentalism and show his concern with social issues,” his Wikipedia page tells me, making it all the clearer why I’m drawn to one of his hymns.
And thanks, too, to whoever wrote the marvelous melody to which this is set. As a kid I didn’t really understand the meter notes that accompanied a hymn but now I pay more attention. This one is 22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199, the numbers telling the beats in each line. Any words that fit that meter scheme can be sung to that melody
The particular melody we sang yesterday that fits this scheme is a beautiful old Welsh tune called Ar Hyd y Nos, which most of us know as the lullaby “All Through the Night,” the title being a a rough translation of the Welsh.