As Fathers’ Day draws near on the first day of Summer, June 20, I’ve been giving some special attention to hymn selection for our Sunday morning worship at The Waters of Eden Prairie.
Senior residents love the familiar old hymns for sure, but I’m taking an unorthodox approach this year, including reviewing back stories on likely choices. Below, I share some of these tidbits.
Children of the Heavenly Father (Tryggare kan ingen vara in Swedish) was written by Karolina “Lina” Sandell and published in 1858. It was the same year Minnesota became a state and my home congregation, Spring Garden Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church/Cannon Falls, was founded by 3 immigrant families, including my great grandparents. Lina was the daughter of a Lutheran minister in the province of Smaland, home of my ancestors, in Sweden.
Lina, a prolific poet, suffered from severe illness throughout her life, lost a sister to tuberculosis and her father to drowning. Her husband had a business failure and her only child was a stillborn daughter, yet she writes of a Heavenly Father who is her refuge, tends, and nourishes and whose purposes are loving!
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind was written by an American Quaker author of note, John Greenleaf Whittier. Whittier was a founder of an anti-slavery movement and spoke out two decades before the Civil War.
The lyrics are a prayer of supplication that takes the singer to the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel where the still small voice of calm, peace and love can be heard by followers of the Lord. I have fond memories of our group’s bus tour around the lake while softly singing these words based on Psalm 46!
Eternal Father, Strong to Save is one of the most requested hymns in my years of experience. In part, because it is the official Navy Hymn that calls for protection for those ‘in peril on the sea’. The assigned scriptures for Father’s Day this year shape images of “the door being shut to hold back the sea” (Job 38:1-11), “the stormy wind lifting up the waves of the sea” (Psalm 107), and the Lord calming the sea with the words, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39)!
An Anglican, William Whiting wrote this hymn in 1860 to ‘anchor his faith’ after being caught in a storm. Singing it, I can almost feel the anchor holding firm, strong against the wind and sea!
Faith of our Fathers is a Catholic hymn by Frederick William Faber written in 1849 in memory of Catholic martyrs who died establishing the Church of England by Henry VIII and Elizabeth based on the call to vigorous faith in Hebrews 11:6. You can feel that rigor in the music and lyrics remembering heroes and heroines in the church who suffered and died for their faith. A note of fidelity is dominant in the lives of service given fully by ancestors in the faith who were “true ‘til death”.
This is my Father’s World, based on Genesis 1:1, was written by a New Yorker, Maltbie Davenport Babcock, born in Syracuse and educated at the University there. Babcock wrote a poem titled “My Father’s World” based on his extensive hikes along the Niagara Escarpment, which starts at the Genesse River that flows into Lake Ontario at Rochester, extends to Niagara Falls and proceeds through Lakes Huron and Michigan all the way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When I sing this hymn at camp worship, my images are in northern Minnesota, but learning about his travels brings a whole other perspective. Wow! Besides this, the hymn tune is TERRA BEATA which means “blessed earth” in Latin.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven are words/lyrics directly from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus on the north end of the Sea of Galilee and recorded in Matthew 5 and Luke 11. It is fair to say it is the ultimate hymn/prayer!
Albert Hay Malotte set it to music in 1935 and it has been sung at millions of weddings and funerals ever since. He was an organist, composer and musician in Philadelphia at St. James Episcopal Church who later came to Chicago to also play organ for silent movies, if you can believe it. Albert dedicated his Lord’s Prayer to a certain baritone John Charles Thomas who performed it on the radio and made it famous.
I’ve made my pick of 3 hymns for this Fathers’ Day on the first day of Summer. Which did you choose?