Academic journal article The Hymn

Through Joy and Sorrow

Academic journal article The Hymn

Through Joy and Sorrow

Article excerpt

Through joy and sorrow Hymn texts by Edith Sinclair Downing. Colfax, North Carolina: Wayne Leupold Editions, 2009. 60 pp. ISBN 978-1-881162-31-5. US $12.50

This collection of fifty-one hymn texts is the latest from Edith Sinclair Downing. What is astounding is not that she managed to write so many new hymns, or even that she did so in her late eighties, but that she has once again produced a volume of such insight and beauty. Selections from her previous work appear in The new century hymnal and Voices found: Women in the church's song, among other collections.

In Through joy and sorrow, Downing offers texts on topics as diverse as singing God's praise in a world where men are privileged, praying for those in pain, and owning our own failure, as well as such liturgically appropriate texts as "Your son rode on a donkey," "Come, holy comforter," and "We now renew our covenant." Her words help us "grieve our culture's bias against diversity," to "celebrate all women," and acknowledge "O God, your heart is breaking/by our abuse of earth."

In my congregation, we gave some of these texts a trial, singing one hymn each Sunday in the season after Epiphany. Each week, we paired the text with one of the tunes recommended, or sometimes some other sturdy well-known tune, with surprising results. For instance, her simple, clear poetry helped rehabilitate the tune AUSTRIA, as we sang:

We are called to act as neighbors

in a world of power and greed,

called to live as true disciples

sharing love in word and deed.

Let us welcome Jews and Muslims

as Christ coming in disguise,

knowing that the God we worship

also works in other lives.

As you can see, this message transcends any echoes of "Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles. …

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