Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another Favorite Hymn

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Indiana Holiness Pastor's Day sponsored by the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium, and since this hymn was sung there, I thought it would be a good time to share a third favorite hymn.  In fact, I have said that I would likely like these three (viz., And Can It Be?; The Love of God; and the one, below) to be included in my funeral . . . sometime, way, way off in the future(!).

This hymn has been called the "unofficial anthem" of the Church of the Nazarene (and my guess is that it is so for a number of holiness groups).  It is sung at every Nazarene ordination service (to my knowledge, anyway).  -  In fact, I would kind of like to see the next general assembly make this the "official" anthem for the denomination.

It was written (words and music) by Lelia N. Morris in 1900.  Mrs. Morris was a Methodist who wrote more than 1,000 gospel songs.  She was a friend to the camp meeting, and she wrote a number of holiness hymns.  Among them was this one.

Holiness unto the Lord

1. "Called unto holiness," Church of our God,
Purchase of Jesus, redeemed by His blood;
Called from the world and its idols to flee,
Called from the bondage of sin to be free.

(Refrain) "Holiness unto the Lord" is our watch-word and song;
"Holiness unto the Lord" as we're marching along.
Sing it, shout it, loud and long:
"Holiness unto the Lord" now and forever.

2. "Called unto holiness," children of light,
Walking with Jesus in garments of white;
Raiment unsullied, nor tarnished with sin;
God's Holy Spirit abiding within.

3. "Called unto holiness," praise His dear name!
This blessed secret to faith now made plain:
Not our own righteousness, but Christ within,
Living and reigning, and saving from sin.

4. "Called unto holiness," bride of the Lamb,
Waiting the Bride-groom's returning again!
Lift up your heads, for the day draweth near
When in His beauty the King shall appear!


Pastor Scott said...

From 2005 - 2009, I pastored at Trinity United Methodist Church in McConnelsville, Ohio. That was Lelia Morris' home church. The fellowship hall is named in her honor: Morris Hall.

Brannon Hancock said...

Hey Todd: you might be interested to know that I'm just putting the finishing touches on a "contemporary" reimagining of "Holiness Unto the Lord." Not sure if that makes you happy or concerned (*wink*), but I promise I've been "faithful" to the original lyric (verses are unchanged; chorus is simply rearranged: "Our watchword and song / is "holiness unto the Lord" / as we're marching along / "Holiness unto the Lord" / we will sing it, shout it / loud and long / now and forevermore / "Holiness unto the Lord"). I'm going to at least put together a demo recording so I can begin sharing it within the denomination. My pastor actually encouraged me to do this - he and I were talking about how many of our best theological hymns have been set aside because of musically "dated" arrangements (e.g. the military march-like feel of "Holiness Unto the Lord"), and how we need to find new ways to keep the old theologically-rich lyrics alive musically in a more modern worship setting. So...we'll see. Those march-y songs are a real challenge to adapt to the more guitar-driven worship style that we do at my church, and sometimes the only solution is a full-on re-write. But of course, this has always been a feature of church music: pairing lyrics to new / different musical settings.

Todd Stepp said...

I would be interested in hearing it! - I was at a conference recently where that song was lead with guitar, keyboard and drums. It was the same tune, but sounded a bit more contemporary.

I have to admit, I'm probably at an age where it would be difficult for me to get used to my favorite hymns to a completely different/contemporized tune. And I know that makes no theological sense, but . . . I would find it difficult to get used to singing "And Can It Be?" to anything other than the tune we have used.

I picked up a small hymn book (spiral bound) that put Wesley hymns to contemporized, new tunes. Admittedly, I did not give it much of a chance.

Still, you are probably right about the tunes. I do like the contemporary sound gained by guitar, etc., and when that is too ackward, I would rather not lose those hymns. But, as I said, it will be difficult for me to get used to it. - But, even if I can't get used to it, it is good that others are doing this kind of work!

Thanks, Brannon!


Brannon Hancock said...

I'd never dare to mess with "And Can it Be?" - we do it "contemporary"-ish in the sense that it is guitar driven with drums, etc, but the melody and rhythms are untouched (if that makes sense). That would be almost as bad as messing with "Joy to the World" or something like that! I'd be afraid of being struck by a lightning bolt, or being tarred and feathered by the congregation!

I really do try to not mess with the melodies and rhythms if at all possible. Where it is not possible (as in the case of, say, "Holiness Unto the Lord" or "Wonderful Grace of Jesus") I think if the words are worth holding on to, we can and should dispense with the musical settings to keep the text alive.