Whatever your race, your colour or creed you are a sister or brother to me…

Whatever your race, your colour or creed
you are a sister or brother to me.
You speak with a language I don’t understand
but I want to learn what you mean.
1 So much we could share if you listen to me,
so much if I listen to you.
Wherever you’re from, and whatever your need,
however you name God, whatever you plead,
your culture is foreign, unusual to me
but both of us want to be free.
Refrain

2 So much we could share if you listen to me,
so much if I listen to you.
When tragedy strikes and our lives spin around,
while babies are crying and battle resounds
I know you still love me, and I still love you,
I’ll help with what you need to do.
Refrain

3 So much we could share if you listen to me,
so much if I listen to you.
So let’s join together, the table is set,
the laughter and pleasure will help us forget
the fear at the difference that keeps us apart.
In loving we’ll make a new start.
Refrain

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
© 2003 Stainer & Bell Ltd 11 8 11 11 11 8 and Refrain 10 10 11 8
Tune by Alex Jarrett with words at No.117 in Reclaiming Praise

Our borders, our walls mock the faith that we own -Hymn/Poem

Our borders, our walls mock the faith that we own,
denying the Christ that we claim to enthrone,
for Christ is our neigbour to love or reject,
for us to disdain, or to treat with respect.

The justice of God is as real as our flesh,
as real as each life that we drown or refresh;
as active as righteousness seen in the cross,
where love met with hatred while bearing the loss.

And now, in this moment, we need to decide,
our crisis of conscience to love or deride:
to claim that some small print lets us off the hook,
or answer, with courage, Christ’s challenging look?

Andrew Pratt 14/7/2019
Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tune: ST DEINIO

O God, let intellect be held – God and the mystery of love

O God, let intellect be held
constrained, that I might simply sense
the depth, and mystery, of love
within this present tense.

As music sets the air aflame,
as sense is dumb and flesh retires
God, reach within my heart again
and fan those hidden fires.

As hands reach out to grasp the grace
that bread and wine should mediate,
reach back through hands that you would choose:
disclose, communicate.

Then held at once in paradox,
remembering in present time,
unite again this human flesh
with sacred love divine.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
© 2003 Stainer & Bell Ltd
8 8 8 6

 

A feather of grace (also posted as a poem)

‘A feather of grace’ appears elsewhere as a poem on this site. It was written the day after I had a defibrillator implant. As a hymn it is, perhaps a bit dense. John Kleinheksel had asked for clarification. He also penned a tune. I hope to include the tune at a later stage, but here is the clarification –

Note: Grace is unwarranted, unexpected yet universal. For something so important one would expect it to be protected, invincible. Yet the medium of announcement is vulnerable and fragile.
The fact of grace, that we are all accepted as we are without condition is unfathomable, cuts across expectation and logic. To explain it we construct models and metaphors out of human experience. There must be a ransom paid. There is none. Just a birth in a foul stable and a death on a sordid cross.
The way of signalling this drama is through the kiss of a man who subsequently kills himself. His act sets the play in motion. Who would trust something so momentous to such a person?
Choice and decision is placed before Pilate. He wants nothing of it. Natural justice points in one direction. His inaction as much as a negative action seals the injustice that is unfolding.
At the end love incarnate hangs bleeding, in human terms, destroyed, eradicated.
The girder of God’s grace is as frail as a feather, yet achieves total human freedom. The balance could have been so much better weighted. But the feather is God’s way. We are rarely, if ever, going to risk it. It is not expedient. It will not work. We do not understand it. But faith’s feather says this is the way.

A feather of grace that puts love in the balance,
no ransom, but freedom, the smallest of gifts.
The healing of people, redemption of nations,
a singular action sealed once with a kiss.

An act of betrayal, a voice at the crossroads,
a choice of direction: to love or destroy.
Significant action, divine contradiction,
judicious inaction, was their’s to deploy.

Then Christ was abandoned, his Judas hung dying,
while Pilate is washing his hands in disgust,
for power is corrupting through pride or indifference,
while love will lie bleeding, let down in distrust.

Andrew Pratt 13/6/2019
Tunes: NAVASINK (Kleinheksel)
Clink link to see: A.Feather.of.Grace.12.11.12.11.NAVASINK;
ST CATHERINE’S COURT

Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

After a quote drawn to my attention by John Kleinheksel –
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/04/the-last-temptation/554066/ accessed 31/7/2019
Michael Gerson beautifully describes at the end of his article,
At its best, faith is the overflow of gratitude, the attempt to live as if we are loved, the fragile hope for something better on the other side of pain and death. And this feather of grace weighs more in the balance than any political gain.

 

This broken world, your broken church – Written in the Worship Live writing weekend at Launde Abbey, June 2019 and sung on 9th June.

This broken world, your broken church,
scattered like dust upon the breeze:
God take your people, make us whole,
fire with your Spirit, bring release,
renew, restore our common bond,
until all humankind respond.

Fire of your love inflame each life,
inspire each heart upon this earth,
until all people can affirm
each person’s value, gift and worth.
Build us as one, together bound,
rooted in grace, in common ground.

Spirit of life flow on, flow free,
till we have peace within this place;
till we can look and see the Christ
in every sad or smiling face.
Forgive our inhumanity,
yet God, by grace begin with me.

© Andrew Pratt 8/6/2019 Written in the Worship Live writing weekend at Launde Abbey, June 2019 and sung on 9th June.
Tune: ABINGDON
Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Launde for blog

Review – More than Hymns: Words for a Lyrical Faith – Janet Wootton – Hymn Society Bulletin 288, 2016 p2 56

Andrew Pratt, More than Hymns: Words for a Lyrical Faith, Stainer & Bell, London, 2015, 190 pp. including indexes, ISBN 978-0-85249- 944-3

I have been privileged to know Andrew Pratt, and to know him specifically as a hymn writer, for many years. I have respected the integrity of his faith and his willingness to face some of the most intractable issues in life and to reflect these with compassion but uncompromisingly in his poetry and hymns.

The preface traces some of the developments in his theological understanding, through a perception of faith which avowedly ‘never can be static’. His exploration into Progressive Christianity builds on an already questioning approach, within a ‘dynamic yet consistent Christian faith’. The bedrock of that faith, which he says is ‘so far unchanged’, is, ‘the unerring presence of Love and the centrality of the human Jesus’. [18]

The present book contains 144 new texts, which continue to push at the boundaries of faith and understanding. The hymns are arranged thematically. Each section is introduced, and each hymn followed by notes on the situation of its writing, its relation to scripture, and its place in Andrew’s own theology. At first, the list of contents looks pretty traditional: creation, Jesus, the Church, society.
But the section on creation moves straight into theodicy, the problem of evil, and then to a grouping under a quotation from Sydney Carter to which Pratt also refers in his preface, ‘Nothing fixed or final’. The challenge is there from the start. The problem of evil and the provisionality of understanding are rooted right there in creation, rather than, as in many collections, among hymns on the world or the human condition.

The hymns on the life of Jesus continue Pratt’s contribution to the tradition of writing that focuses not only on the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, but also powerfully on his life and teaching. These sections concentrate on a few passages. In the case of the ministry of Jesus, the central focus is the Beatitudes, including an amazing text based on The Message version: ‘At the end of your rope? You are blessed! That is strange’ (no. 35).

Since his last collection of hymns, Pratt has been involved in writing for the three years of the Revised Common Lectionary, for the online resources, Twelve Baskets, now called The Worship Cloud. It may be thanks to this, which Andrew calls a ‘discipline’, that there are hymns to take us through Holy Week and to Pentecost, under the title, ‘Jesus – the last days’.

I find it a little strange that Pentecost is subsumed under Jesus, and, in fact, there is little on the Spirit of God. Maybe this is part of Pratt’s powerfully incarnational theological stance. In fact, it is something of a delight that ‘Holy risk-taker’ appears in the index, but not Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the Pentecost ‘end’ of ‘Jesus – the last days’ is an Andrew Pratt tour de force, starting: ‘Eternal fury fires the saints/who shake and rattle, push and shove’ and ends: ‘God hangs beyond the edge of hope,/ outside the church, beyond the walls’ (no. 62).

There are hymns to challenge the church, in its making sense of scripture, and its worship. The voices from scripture are not those of comfort, but convey a sophisticated interaction with biblical texts, worthy of the Wesleys in whose tradition Andrew Pratt stands. For him, as for the Wesleys, ‘sung words’ can be ‘part of the process of hermeneutics, of our reaching back to the original Hebrew and Greek … unlocking scripture and extending the limits of our interpretation’. [19]

The scriptural focus continues in ‘Something of society’, which brings what we know of Hebrew society into conversation with present day issues. What does monarchy look like, viewed against its Hebrew roots (no. 92)? How are human relationships, parenting, loving, lived out in the presence of the God of scripture?

And we are led onward into the varied circumstances of life, living with wealth, discrimination and injustice, through remembrance and grief to renewal.

Andrew Pratt’s writing has often been inspired by events, or by books or lectures, which sparked off ideas. Those who know him are used to seeing him ostensibly taking notes during a conference or meeting: well, yes, taking notes, but in verse, and at the end, producing a finished hymn. Or else we have found in our in-box, following a natural or human disaster, a text which fixes the event to the canvas of theology with pinpoint accuracy.

These are still here in this collection: for example, no. 142 was written on the death of Nelson Mandela. But more of these texts draw on Andrew’s own life experience, including, now, suffering and bereavement, which seem to claw their way to joy. The section on remembrance and grief includes a searing text, which he says comes from his experience as a telephone Samaritan, but also ‘through clinical depression following the death of my son, and through my own experience of cancer’, no. 131, which is about suicide. But no. 6, in the section on theodicy, takes on the full power of suffering: ‘when no angels flew about me,/when I thought I’d gone insane’, finds the way to praise through the God who ‘has plumbed the depths of darkness’, and goes on to pray for others whose lives are ‘dim and dark’.

Like many text writers who are not musicians, Andrew writes to existing hymn tunes. However, some of the hymns in this collection have tunes composed for them, in many cases by Finnish composer, Camilla Cederholm. Others are set to folk melodies, which are often included with the words. In one or two places, there is a closer interaction between text and tune. Hymn no. 13, for instance, ‘resulted from a conversation with the Revd Dr Jan Berry. We were discussing how some women who have survived abuse find the biblical image of Mary to be one of a survivor’. [20]  Though PADERBORN is suggested, the tune printed is NORTH COUNTRY MAID, which is, of course, about a young woman who, like Mary, is lonely and far from home.

Hymn 100 is set to MACPHERSON’S FAREWELL, which has a very specific movement of emotion through what in the original is a verse and chorus construction. The chorus part, with its driving three four rhythm, works well with the second half of the first two verses, particularly verse 2, where the first (fifth) line, ‘There is no hurt that is not felt’, gives a strong down beat emphasis to ‘is’ in each case. On the other hand, the first line ends in the word ‘partiality’, which is spun out over eight notes, and makes more sense in the alternative tune, KINGSFOLD.

Not all the texts are designed to be sung corporately. The stark Good Friday hymn at no. 47 is suggested as a solo, and the aforementioned text on suicide at no. 131, set to a tune by Cederholm, is written as a song (fully underlined under the tune), and ‘might be sung congregationally at a funeral, or performed by a soloist to give voice to the feelings of others.’ [21]

It is very hard to stop writing this review! There is far more to be said about this bombshell of a book. In the end, all I can say is that you have to read it for yourself. Use and sing the texts, read them as the edgy, shattering poems that they are. Let the imagery cannon around your mind. And be prepared to encounter scripture in vivid new ways.

Janet Wootton

 

Tax Justice Sunday Hymn – Our vulnerable God – www.catj.org.uk

Our vulnerable God suffered pain and temptation,
rode lightly to wealth, saw the greedy as flawed.
And we, as disciples, who walk in Christ’s footsteps
are challenged to follow, to love, not defraud.

Transparent in action, confronting injustice,
upbraiding the rich, while upraising the poor,
he called us to welcome the outcast, the homeless,
by giving, not taking, by opening each door.

Let taxes revalue the lost and discarded,
ensuring the powerful will equally share,
until all the world is redeemed for all people,
until inequality ends as unfair.

And now as we look to the world let us value,
each person, each neighbour of infinite worth,
through sharing and stewardship to lift up the lowly,
to raise out of poverty all upon earth.
Andrew Pratt 29/4/2019
Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tune: STREETS OF LAREDO