What follows is an edited summary of the Hymn Sing held on Sunday, June 5, 2016, in the Extension of The Mother Church and broadcast live online. The Hymn Sing was one of the events held during the weekend prior to Annual Meeting. To watch the full replay, visit christianscience.com/hymn-sing. To listen to recordings and access sheet music for 12 of the 14 hymns sung during the Hymn Sing, visit jsh.christianscience.com/hymn-sing.
To begin the Hymn Sing, Ryan Vigil, the host of the Hymn Sing and Hymnal Specialist with the General Publications department of The Christian Science Publishing Society, welcomed those in attendance in the Extension of The Mother Church and those listening online. Ryan then introduced Gwen Eagleton, Co-Soloist of The Mother Church, Evan Bryant, guest soloist at The Mother Church, Bryan Ashley, Organist of The Mother Church, and Marian English, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher and former Second Reader of The Mother Church (participating via videoconference from Colorado).
Ryan invited Marian to share some thoughts about the spiritual significance of music and the activity of singing hymns.
Marian English: I thought I would read to you what Mary Baker Eddy had to say about music. She says quite a lot about music, and one of the things she says is that she was once “passionately fond of material music” (Message for 1900, p. 11). You can see that passion cropping up as musical terms are peppered throughout her writings. She uses terms like rhythm, and diminuendo, and crescendo, and even diapason—which we don’t use very often, but that’s the full range of an instrument. I think her favorite is harmony. She takes harmony as musical tones put together according to the law that governs music, and she lifts that to the universal law of harmony according to the law of Love that governs man.
Let’s sing with our hearts, and that healing consciousness, as it rises in our own hearts, can touch the world.
I’m wondering if we might follow her lead today. Do you think that we can take what we’re doing today—people coming together from all over the world to sing some new songs—and gently lift that to being healers? Do you think we can sing this universal language of music and sing about the universal law of harmony, as a gift of love and healing and hope for the whole world, from the Church of Christ, Scientist? I think we can—I think we can be healers for the whole world today. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy tells us that “music is the rhythm of head and heart” (p. 213). So let’s sing today not only with our knowledge of rhythm and of how notes fit together, but let’s sing with our hearts—that joyous, uplifting, inspiring way that simply can fill this auditorium—and that healing consciousness, as it rises in our own hearts, can touch the world.
After Ryan introduced the first hymn, “Through Pure Love,” Gwen sang the first verse and the refrain, before the congregation sang the whole hymn with the organ.
Ryan Vigil: I love how that last verse brings out such a clear sense of communion, of at-one-ment. It reads:
We are one with God forever,
One with Love eternally—
A perfect bond that can’t be broken—
Let the truth of Christ shine bright.
(Janet Hegarty, © CSBD)
Those are great words. Speaking of great words, that’s really been such a major priority to us as we’ve been putting this Supplement together. With hymns, you have the words and you have the music. Sometimes, they’re inextricably linked. But usually they actually travel independently. One of the things that we’ve done in putting together this Supplement is to identify poems that we really love, that we really want to see in our Hymnal, and match them with existing hymn tunes. That’s not as easy as it sounds. You can’t just take any poem and any hymn tune and put them together. They have to line up, they have to agree, in terms of the number of syllables in the poem, the number of notes in the hymn, etc., and they also have to agree in terms of the character of the poem and of the music.
This next hymn that we’re going to sing takes a poem that was first published in the Christian Science Sentinel, and combines it with an American hymn tune from the first part of the 20th century.
The congregation sang “There Is a Presence” with the organ.
Ryan Vigil: In some cases there were poems that we really wanted to include for which there was no existing tune that worked. In those situations new music was needed, and the next hymn represents just such a situation.
The congregation sang “Lord, … Open His Eyes” with the organ.
Ryan Vigil: There are different kinds of music. That last hymn has a wonderful elegant, flowing quality. It just sort of gently leads us through the words. Another kind of music, a kind of music that’s nice to have represented in a hymnal, is what I like to call “strong” music, with a really strong text. The music in this next hymn is from “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius. It’s wonderful, triumphant music, and it fits this poem perfectly.
The congregation then sang this hymn, “Eternal God, the Cause of All Creation,” with the organ.
Ryan Vigil: The new music in this next hymn has a certain innocence and joyfulness to it that brings out a different side of the poem. Appropriately, given the first words of the hymn, “From these Your children gathered in Your name” (Violet Hay, alt., © CSBD), it was written with children’s voices in mind. It’s not just for kids—it was actually written to be sung in a community atmosphere, similar to the atmosphere that we have here today.
After Ryan gave some coaching on this hymn, Gwen and Evan sang a sample for the congregation, before the congregation sang “From These Your Children” with the piano.
Ryan Vigil: I mentioned that these words are familiar, which is why you might have noticed that they’re not exactly the same as the words that are in the 1932 Hymnal. In the 1932 Hymnal we sing, “From these Thy children gathered in Thy name” (Violet Hay, Hymn 66, © CSBD). And we just sang, “From these Your children gathered in Your name.” What’s going on here, Marian?
Marian English: What’s going on here is change and updated language. The key is in knowing what changes and what doesn’t. Change is at the very core of the healing practice of Christian Science. Consider what Science and Health says about that: “Eternal Truth is changing the universe.” We’re not afraid that the universe is going to change the eternal Truth, because it can’t. Mrs. Eddy continues, “ ‘Let there be light,’ is the perpetual demand of Truth and Love, changing chaos into order and discord into the music of the spheres” (p. 255). That’s a profound change, and it begins with you and me right here at home.
The important thing is to know the difference between those things that change and those things that do not change. When we are fully anchored in the things that don’t change—God, His nature, His love, His Christ, the real identity of every one of us, the true image and likeness, and the Science, what God and His Christ know—it becomes law to human thought. When we’re anchored in that and demonstrating it on a daily basis, then we’re not afraid of changes.
Ryan Vigil: Of course, there are some words that we’re certainly not going to change, and that includes the words to poems by Mary Baker Eddy that we set in our Hymnal. We’re really delighted to be including several new settings of Mrs. Eddy’s hymns in this new Supplement.
Marian English: Mrs. Eddy spoke her heart through poetry, which she loved. She wrote quite a few poems, and many of them were published in the local newspapers of her day. The seven poems that became beloved Christian Science hymns and appear in our Hymnal were written between 1868 and 1900—a very dramatic time of her life, when she was establishing this healing movement for all mankind. They were not whimsical—they were healing responses to something going on in her life, or in the movement.
The hymns remain the same healing thread of absolute truth that comes to us in different cultures, in different times.
Mrs. Eddy knew the power of her hymns. She wrote a letter to the Board of Directors of The Mother Church in 1903, and in it she said, “It would be a good thing to have one of my Hymns read and sung about every Sunday.” She continues, “It would spiritualize the thought of your audience and this is more needed in the church than aught else can be” (L00326, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library). Now why do you suppose that spiritualizing the thought of the congregation is “more needed in the church than aught else can be”? We know that she said to a student that “she longed for the day to come when no one could enter a Christian Science church, no matter how sick or how sorrowing that one might be, without being healed, and that this day can come only when every member of the church studies and demonstrates the truth contained in the Lesson-Sermon, and takes with him to the service the consciousness thus prepared” (“Healing the multitudes,” July 1, 1916, Sentinel). Now, that wonderful sense of an atmosphere in which anyone can be healed is a powerful thing to think about. It is one that we cherish and work for, an atmosphere of healing love in our Christian Science church services.
The congregation then sang Mrs. Eddy’s hymns “ ‘Feed My Sheep’ ” and “Communion Hymn” with the organ.
Ryan Vigil: The music for that last hymn was submitted from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are so grateful for all of the contributions from so many people from all over the world—poets, composers, poet-composers, singers, organists, proofreaders, translators, editors—the list goes on and on. People both acknowledged and anonymous have been contributing to this effort.
The music of this next hymn is from France, from a composition by Gabriel Fauré, a late-19th-century French composer. A brand-new poem has been written to that music, and I think you’ll agree that it’s very powerful.
The congregation sang “Above All Earthly Gain” with the organ.
Ryan Vigil: This next hymn features both new words and new music, which were submitted from Germany.
The congregation sang “Be Gentle, Be Pure” with the piano.
Ryan Vigil: The words and music to this next hymn are from Brazil, and the first line reminds us that, “The grace of God is always surrounding me.”
The congregation sang “The Grace of God” with the piano.
Ryan Vigil: This next hymn is a familiar text but utilizes the syncopated rhythms and arpeggiated melodic gestures that are common in a lot of Latin American music.
The congregation sang “Take My Life” with the piano.
Ryan Vigil: In the next hymn, the words fit perfectly with a traditional Chinese folk tune. It’s so interesting how singing these familiar words with a new melody can inspire fresh perspectives on the text.
The congregation sang “Glory Be to God on High” with the organ.
Marian English: I want to make a point that the profound healing ideas that truly bring healing to each of us come from the Christian Science Pastor, the Scriptures and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. But what do hymns do, then—do they not heal? Oh, they certainly do! Sometimes the hymns will pick up an idea that comes from the Pastor, and they will bring it to us in song. They will bring it to us in harmony that reaches our hearts.
Marian talked about the biblical history of singing hymns.
Mary Baker Eddy knew the power of her hymns.
The hymns remain the same healing thread of absolute truth that comes to us in different cultures, in different times. The Bible sets the tone for that. And how about today’s culture? Recently I was in a room and I asked the people there, “Has anybody here been healed by a hymn?” Every hand in the room went up.
Ryan Vigil: The Hymnal is one of the amazing resources we have in Christian Science. When we turn to the Hymnal, we’re turning our thoughts Godward. That focus on God, that spiritual understanding of divine Principle, brings healing and meaning into our lives.
The congregation then sang “God of Creation and Lord of My Soul” with the organ.
Marian English: I’d like to leave you with this message from our Leader: “The real Christian Scientist is constantly accentuating harmony in word and deed, mentally and orally, perpetually repeating this diapason of heaven: ‘Good is my God, and my God is good. Love is my God, and my God is Love’ ” (Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 206).
Ryan Vigil: Before we sing the last hymn, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Gwen, and Evan, and Bryan, and Marian, for all of their help this afternoon.
The congregation sang the last hymn, “Sing a New, New Song,” with the piano.