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Music Notes from Denise, January 27, 2024

This Sunday will be our Annual Meeting of St. Martin’s church. In our Gospel reading in Mark we find Jesus teaching and healing in the synagogue. In Psalm 111, we read Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Our St. Martin’s Hand Bell Choir will provide us with a unique opening to the service, as we play a Processional composed by Margaret Tucker while dispersed around the nave. Hopefully, this will reflect our offering of Hallelujah! The Processional hymn, How wondrous and great thy works, God of praise! will follow. It was written by Henry Ustick Onderdonk, Bishop of Pennsylavania in 1826.


Our Sequence hymn will be Lord, make us servants of your peace, written by Father James Quinn SJ (1919-2010), a Scottish priest who saw his hymn writing as an extension of his commitment to his Jesuit order. It is often attributed to the “Prayer of St. Francis”., and reflects the ways that we can help to bring about the Kingdom of God. (


For our Offertory, St. Martin’s Choir will commemorate the 251st anniversary of John Newton’s writing of “Amazing Grace” with a new anthem arranged by Mark Edwards. Newton was born in London in 1725 and after losing his mother as a child, he joined his father, a sea captain, for a life at sea. He led a reckless life and was dishonorably discharged from the Royal Navy, and put into hard labor for a slave trader in West Africa. One night while commanding a slave ship, a violent storm raged, and his boat began to take on water. Young Newton thought he would surely die, and cried out to God for deliverance and mercy. He recognized this as his conversion, yet continued in the slave shipping business. He eventually left the sea for an office job and held Bible studies in his Liverpool home. Through the influence of evangelists Whitefield and Wesley, Newton began to prepare for ministry. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1764 and served a church in Olney, where he gained notoriety as a preacher and writer of hymns.


“Amazing Grace” was written in the weeks preceding his 1773 New Year’s Day sermon at St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Olney, England. His sermon was based on David’s humble prayer in 1 Chronicles 17:16-27. Newton continued in ministry and writing into his eighties and became a strong supporter of William Wilberforce and his campaign to end slavery. Near the end of his life, he was known to have said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”  (Mark Edwards, Celebrating Grace Music published in 2022)


Our Communion hymn is one that was written by Marty Haugen in 1982, Gather Us In. Haugen describes his inspiration for this hymn: “‘Gather Us In’ was written after I first heard the wonderful [former Jesuit Dutch theologian and poet Huub] Oosterhuis text ‘What Is This Place?’ I wanted to craft something that might say a similar message to North American ears. I deliberately wrote it in second person to avoid gender issues and to more directly sing ‘to’ God rather than ‘about’ God. Ironically, that has been at times a problem for some, who would like God more carefully circumscribed and named.” (Dr. Hawn, The text is particularly appropriate for today’s Gospel lesson in Matthew 22 about the Feast of God. The first stanza describes a community of hope, honesty and inclusiveness where we all feel welcome when we hear “the sound of our name” as it was spoken at our baptism. The second stanza continues this theme describing young and old, rich and the haughty, proud and the strong; a community with a mission to be a light to the world. The third stanza describes a sacramental community were we receive the “wine and the water” and “bread of new birth” which gives us strength for the journey. The hymn concludes with bringing our mission into the present time and out of the church building into the surrounding community at large. The Kingdom of God is here and now and we are a necessary part of it! (1982 GIA Publications, Inc.)

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