The tune Cwm Rhondda is one of those sturdy Welsh hymn tunes that are so satisfying to sing, and it has been adopted by Welsh rugby fans, turning them into “Ten Thousand Instant Christians”, as one Welsh comic noted. Might we all sing with the enthusiasm, if somewhat less inebriation, of 10,000 rugby fans.
I was tempted to link you to a version recorded at an alternative worship service in England known as “Greenbelt Beer and Hymns”. If you don’t believe me, you can check it out for yourselves on YouTube. Rugby or the Beer Eucharist. It was a hard choice.
Or perhaps you’ll be inspired to rent The African Queen, in which Katherine Hepburn, in the role of a missionary, sings her earnest version of Guide me O thou great Jehovah to reluctant converts. This hymn takes a beating in various ways, but remains undiminished in its strength of character.
The text sung to this same tune at St. Alban’s this coming Sunday is by an American preacher from the early 20th century, Harry Emerson Fosdick – God of grace and God of glory. It was written for the opening of New York City’s famed Riverside Church and is found in The Hymnal 1982 at 594. A few phrases jump out at me as particularly meaningful: on thy people pour thy power, reminding us that God does work through us; free our hearts to faith and praise, implying that the fearful way we can close ourselves off from others inhibits us from living lives of faith and praise; save us from weak resignation, encourages us to stand up for idealism, however hard that can be sometimes; and most of all, cure thy children’s warring madness, an important message for all of human history right up to the present day.
Thank you for reminding Nancy and me of part of our heritage.