Post Author: Diana Carroll
Before I began the ordination process, I wanted to be a writer. I also come from a musical background and am a life-long choral singer. So when I discovered the art of hymn-writing, it seemed like the perfect intersection of three things I love: words, music, and worshiping God.
I wrote both of these hymn texts as part of my coursework at Yale Divinity School. “We have often called you Father” was my final project for a course called “Hymnody as a Resource for Preaching and Worship.” It was inspired by the challenges involved in trying to use more inclusive language in worship, particularly when it comes to describing and addressing God. Rather than simply writing a hymn that used inclusive language, I wanted to engage the medium of hymn-singing itself (which is often heavily dominated by patriarchal imagery) to help congregations explore the whole question of how we name and picture God.
The second hymn, “Christ, according to your measure”, was written for an assignment in my New Testament course. In addition to a traditional exegesis paper, we were instructed to come up with a creative response to the passage we had chosen to write about. This hymn text is based on Ephesians 4:1-16 and is especially appropriate for ordinations, confirmations, celebrations of new ministries, and any other time when the members of a faith community and their many gifts are being celebrated.
Both hymn texts are written in the meter 87.87 Double, which means that each verse consists of eight lines that alternate between eight and seven syllables in length. Many great hymn tunes use this meter, so the texts could easily be sung to a number of different tunes, in addition to those I’ve suggested.
We Have Often Called You “Father”
Suggested Tune: NETTLETON
We have often called You “Father.”
We have often called You “Lord.”
We have spoken of Your “kingdom,”
and of “mankind’s” rich reward.
We have sung a thousand praises
to the holy Trinity—
Father, Son and Holy Spirit—
to a God we know as “He.”
Yes, our theologians tell us
You transcend all gendering,
but we paint a diff’rent picture
with the words we say and sing.
We place human limits on You,
granting You both sex and race,
even though we know Your image
can be seen in every face.
If we seek to change our language,
taking out what might offend,
making worship gender neutral,
following the current trend,
then instead of “God the Father,”
we will praise “Creator God.”
And in place of any pronoun
simply say, “God, God, God, God.”
Yet with worship safely altered
to include all humankind,
still we feel the strangest longing
for the language left behind.
Gone the richness of tradition.
Gone the ancient imag’ry.
Gone the words we learned as children,
words that set our spirits free.
Some say we should call you “Mother.”
Others like the old way best.
Some are terrified of changing.
Some can never let things rest.
But we know that You are greater
than our words can ever tell.
Teach us how we best can name you.
Teach us how to praise you well.
Christ According To Your Measure
Suggested Tune: AUSTRIAN HYMN
Christ, according to your measure
you have given each one grace.
Once, for us to earth descended,
now you fill all time and space.
And to this, your humble body
you have given gifts indeed.
So today we thank and praise you
for the gift of those who lead.
Some are prophets, some apostles.
Some are preachers of good news.
Some are pastors, some are teachers.
All are gifted as you choose.
To equip God’s chosen people
for the work of ministry:
Building up your holy body
till we come to unity.
Christ, who led us to this calling
make us worthy of the call.
One in faith and one in spirit,
one in God who is in all.
With humility and patience,
help us keep the bond of peace,
bearing with each other’s failings,
so that hope and love increase.
Christ, we are your living body,
knit together, each to each,
growing up into your stature
till maturity we reach.
As we seek a deeper knowledge
of the One whose name we bear,
Give the gifts that are most needed.
Lead us in the work we share.
Image by: Charles Clegg
Used with permission