Archive for the ‘Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship (1994)’ Tag

Feast of Reginald Heber (April 3)   1 comment

(c) British Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) British Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Above:  Reginald Heber

Image in the Public Domain

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REGINALD HEBER (APRIL 21, 1783-APRIL 3, 1826)

Anglican Bishop of Calcutta and Hymn Writer

The feast day of Reginald Heber in the Church of North India is April 3.  The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995) lists his citation as “Reginald Heber (1826):  Bishop, Evangelist.”

Reginald Heber came from an old and prominent Yorkshire family and became a great poet.  He, born at Malpas, Cheshire, England, on April 21, 1783, was a son of Reginald Heber (Sr., I guess), the Anglican Rector of Hodnet.  (Aside:  Would using suffixes, such as “Sr.,” “Jr.,” and “III” have been so difficult?)  Young Reginald Heber received a fine education, which he used.  At the age of seven years he translated Phaedrus, a Socratic dialogue, into English.  Later, at Brasenose College, Oxford, our saint won the prize for the best Latin poem and won the Newdigate Prize for the poem Palestine.  Heber, a Fellow of All Souls College, toured Europe with a friend in 1806.

Then Heber became an Anglican priest.  In 1807 he took Holy Orders.  From 1807 to 1823 served as the Rector of Hodnet.  Along the way he did the following:

  1. He married Amelia Shipley (in 1809) and had to children with her.
  2. He began to publish hymns keyed to the church year in the Christian Observer (in 1811 forward) and worked on Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year, completed by Amelia and published in 1827.  Heber contributed 57 of the 98 hymns.
  3. He became the Prebendary of St. Asaph (1812).
  4. He delivered the Bampton Lectures in 1815.  His topic was The Personality and Office of the Comforter.
  5. He became the Preacher at Lincoln’s Inn, London (1822).

Heber was a liturgical pioneer.  At the time proper Anglicans sang metrical Psalms and dissenters from the Established Church sang hymns.  Our saint, however, embraced the singing of hymns and set out to write texts that would stand the test of time.  Three ideas guided him as he composed hymn texts:

  1. The hymn must be part of the liturgy of the Church and must therefore adapt itself to the Church calendar.
  2. The hymn should come after the Nicene Creed and complement the message of the sermon.
  3. It should be a literary masterpiece.

–Quoted in Armin Haeussler, The Story of Our Hymns:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1952), page 713

I have added 12 of Heber’s texts addressed to God at my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  One might already know “Holy, Holy, Holy!  Lord God Almighty!,” a hymn for Trinity Sunday, but one might not be familiar with the splendid “When Spring Unlocks the Flowers.”  Unfortunately, many of Heber’s hymns have fallen out of use; I had to find most of those 12 hymns in old hymnals, some of them about a century old.

Heber’s final title was Bishop of Calcutta (1823-1826).  He had a challenging task, for he was the missionary bishop of all of British India.  Our saint worked hard until he died of apoplexy on April 3, 1826, 18 days short of his forty-third birthday.

Heber has not failed to attract criticism post-mortem.  Many of those negative words have been due to a particular hymn, dated 1819:

From Greenland’s icy mountains,

From India’s coral strand,

Where Afric’s sunny fountains

Roll down their golden sand,

From many an ancient river,

From many a palmy plain,

They call us to deliver

Their land from error’s chain.

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What though the spicy breezes

Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;

Though every prospect pleases,

And only man is vile:

In vain with lavish kindness

The gifts of God are strown;

The heathen in his blindness

Bows down to wood and stone.

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Can we, whose souls are lighted

With wisdom from on high,

Can we to men benighted

The lamp of life deny?

Salvation! O salvation!

The joyful sound proclaim,

Till each remotest nation

Has learned Messiah’s Name.

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Waft, waft, ye winds, his story,

And you, ye waters, roll,

Till like a sea of glory

It spreads from pole to pole;

Till o’er our ransomed nature

The Lamb for sinners slain,

Redeemer, King, Creator,

In bliss returns to reign.

This hymn has long been a lightning rod for a variety of constituencies.  “And only man is vile” (from the second stanza), a reference to Original Sin, has offended non-Christians and some Christians alike.  Also, the end of the second stanza, with its imagery of heathens bowing down to wood and stone has offended many.  These criticisms have really been about allegations of imperialism and ethnocentrism.  As I learned in Anthropology 101 many moons ago, both cultural relativism and ethnocentrism are fallacies.  I would be surprised if Heber were free of any degree of ethnocentrism, but I have also detected cultural relativism in criticisms of the hymn.

This hymn has fallen out of favor in modern hymnody.  It has, of course, fallen into disuse in mainline churches, as measured by denominational hymnals.  The hymn has also fallen out of favor in more conservative denominations, as measured by their hymnals.  I, as a collector of hymnals, have consulted my library and found that, in the current generation of conservative Protestant denominational hymnals, the following volumes, successors to volumes that included this hymn, “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” is absent:

  1. Baptist Hymnal (2008),
  2. The Covenant Hymnal:  A Worshipbook (1996),
  3. Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996),
  4. Lift Up Your Hearts:  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (2013),
  5. Lutheran Service Book (2006), and
  6. Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (1990).

Furthermore, the official list of hymns for the Trinity Psalter Hymnal (scheduled for publication in late 2017), successor to the Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (1990), does not include “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.”  Nevertheless, the Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship (1994) does.

More people should lighten up.

Heber could have led a life of relative ease at Hodnet, but he accepted the challenge to become a missionary bishop.  He spent his life glorifying God and left a legacy in souls and in theologically dense and well-composed hymn texts.  He was certainly worthy of recognition as a saint.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Reginald Heber and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Feast of Augustus Nelson (June 18)   1 comment

Augustus Nelson

Above:  Augustus Nelson

Image Source = The Escanaba Daily Press, Escanaba, Michigan, June 27, 1924, Page 4

Accessed via newspapers.com

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AUGUSTUS NELSON (SEPTEMBER 20, 1863-JUNE 18, 1949)

Swedish-American Lutheran Minister and Hymn Translator

The name of Augustus Nelson came to my attention as I added English-language translations of Swedish hymns to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  I made a note to myself to learn more about him as part of the process of considering him for addition to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  A meme I saw on Facebook recently depicted an iceberg, most of which was underwater.  The portion of the iceberg above water represented canonized saints, and the majority of the iceberg represented all the other saints.  Nelson has come to my Ecumenical Calendar from the portion of the iceberg that is underwater.

Nelson, born in Sweden on September 20, 1863, emigrated to the United States of America in 1883.  Here he made great contributions to communities, congregations, and the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America (1860-1894)/Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America (1894-1948)/Augustana Lutheran Church (1948-1962).  Upon his arrival in the U.S.A. Nelson worked as a farm laborer.  He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota, in 1890.  Next our saint continued his studies at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and at Augustana Theological Seminary, Rock Island, Illinois.  Nelson, ordained in 1898, married his love, Emma, who had studied music at Gustavus Adolphus College, on September 7, 1898.  She was 13 years his junior.  The couple had four children, all of whom became educators:

  1. Anna Regina E. Nelson (Quist) (1899-1981);
  2. Ruth G. E. Nelson (Johnson) (1900-1992), who was also a missionary in Tanganyika (now Tanzania);
  3. Carl E. A. Nelson (1902-1978?); and
  4. Esther E. Nelson (Carlson) (1915-1990).

Emma died at Mankato, Minnesota, on March 25, 1957, aged 77 years.  She had survived her husband by about eight years.  Her four children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren survived her.

Our saint served at various congregations, mostly in the Midwest.  First was Bethany Lutheran Church,  at Escanaba, Michigan, from 1898 to 1902.  During the next several years the Nelsons were in Waukegan, Illinois, then New Haven, Connecticut.  From 1906 to August 1909 Nelson was minister at Trade Lake, Wisconsin.  A 15-year-long tenure at Zion Lutheran Church, Manistique, Michigan, and its mission at Thompson, also on the Upper Peninsula, followed.  Then, from 1924 to 1938, our saint ministered at Clear Lake, Minnesota, and its mission at Gibbon.  He retired to Minneapolis in 1938 and eventually moved to Mankato, where he died, aged 85 years, on June 18, 1949.

Nelson also served beyond the congregational level.  From 1904 to 1906 he sat on the board of the Augustana Synod’s Upsala College, East Orange, New Jersey.  Our saint also served on the denominational Board of Education from 1922 to 1924.  Furthermore, he was the secretary of the Augustana Synod’s Superior Conference for nine years which included 1922-1925.

Nelson translated hymns, mostly from Swedish but also from Latin.  I have added four of these to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  A fifth text was a translation from the writings of St. Venantius Honorius Clementius Fortunatus (circa 530-600/609):

Praise the Saviour

Now and ever!

Praise Him all beneath the skies!

Prostrate lying,

Suffering, dying

On the cross, a Sacrifice;

Victory gaining,

Life obtaining,

Now in glory He doth rise.

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Man’s work faileth,

Christ’s availeth,

He is all our Righteousness.

He our Saviour

Hath forever

Set us free from dire distress

We inherit

Through his merit

Light and peace and happiness.

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Sin’s bonds severed,

We’re delivered,

Christ hath bruised the serpent’s head;

Death no longer

Is the stronger,

Hell itself is captive led.

Christ hath risen

From death’s prison,

O’er the tomb He light hath shed.

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For His favor

Praise forever

Unto God the Father sing;

Praise the Saviour,

Praise Him ever,

Son of God, our Lord and King;

Praise the Spirit,

Through Christ’s merit.

He doth us salvation bring.

Nelson’s legacy of hymnody does survive, albeit less robustly than it did in hymnals published prior to 1990.  My survey of denominational hymnals published since 1990 indicates that each of the following volumes contains one translation by our saint:

  1. Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church in America, 1990),
  2. Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship (The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994),
  3. Trinity Hymnal–Baptist Edition (Reformed Baptist, 1995),
  4. The Covenant Hymnal:  A Worshipbook (The Evangelical Covenant Church of America, 1996), and
  5. Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2013).

One can, however, find other and more translations by Nelson in older hymnals (especially those of Lutheran denominations in North America) and at hymn websites.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SAINT OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HAYES PLUMPTRE, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Augustus Nelson and others, who have translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Feast of Carl Doving (October 2)   2 comments