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New Gillette hymn captures the theme and spirit of the NCC’s Centennial Gathering in New Orleans

November 4, 2010

Headshot of the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, wearing multicolored vestments.

The Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

NEW ORLEANS

Hymn writer and Presbyterian minister the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, whose earlier creations have encouraged responsible citizenship or brought the agony of Haiti into liturgical settings, has written a new hymn to capture the theme of the Centennial Gathering of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC) here Nov. 9-11.

Taking up the theme, "Witnesses of these Things, Ecumenical Engagement in a New Era, Gillette’s hymn, “O God, in Christ You Call Us,” begins:

O God, in Christ you call us to witness to your grace--
To share the life you give us in every time and place.
So many things divide us-- yet we are not our own;
For we belong to Jesus who prayed, "May they be one."

The hymn is sung to the tune of “The Church's One Foundation” (Aurelia 7.6.7.6D)

The Centennial Gathering, which is the General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service (CWS), will commemorate the 100 years that have passed since the Edinburgh, Scotland, World Mission Conference, an event that is often regarded as the symbolic beginning of the modern ecumenical movement.

Gillette, who with her husband Bruce is co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Del., read five vision papers prepared for the gathering before she wrote the new hymn.

The papers seek to define ecumenical engagement in a new era on such topics as war in an age of terrorism, the economy in an age of growing inequality, creation in an age of environmental crisis, mission in an age of interfaith relations and unity in an age of radical diversity.

“Carolyn has neatly captured the message of the gathering in song,” said the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary. “We will be using this hymn in worship at the Centennial Gathering. We also invite churches to use the hymn in worship services on November 7, the Sunday before the gathering begins.”

Gillette, whose custom is to put new words to familiar hymn tunes, said she wanted to new words to a hymn that was sung at the Edinburgh gathering a century ago. She enlisted the help of Margery Sly at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, who found archived copies of the worship services from the 1910 World Mission Conference.

On Oct. 31, many churches across the country sang a hymn Gillette wrote in 2004 to put into music the National Council of Churches “Christian Principles in an Election Year.” For many, the hymn has become an annual election year tradition.

Earlier this year Gillette wrote a hymn on the agony of Haiti following the devastating earthquake. She has also written a hymn, "Abraham Journeyed to a New Country," on the immigrant and refugee experience.

O God, in Christ You Call Us

AURELIA 7.6.7.6 D (“The Church's One Foundation”) 

O God, in Christ you call us to witness to your grace —

To share the life you give us in every time and place.

So many things divide us — yet we are not our own;

For we belong to Jesus who prayed, “May they be one.”

 

In Christ is our salvation; in him you’ve set us free —

We make this proclamation in bold humility.

Your image is in others who follow different ways;

Together, seeking justice, we offer you our praise.

 

In Christ, we’re bound together; in him we find your peace.

Yet even as we gather, the wounds of war increase.

Where terror brings division, God, make us brave to say
Our churches share a vision of Jesus’ peaceful way.

 

In Christ, the poor and hungry are shown they matter, too —

And where your church has plenty, you give us work to do.

Now may we put in practice the faith that we declare,

Seek economic justice, and find new ways to share.

 

In Christ, you bless creation and show this planet’s worth;

May every congregation find ways to tend the earth.

Now fill us with your Spirit, that we, as one, may be

A faithful, loving witness to all humanity.

Biblical References:  Luke 24:48; John 17:21; Luke 10:36-37; Matthew 5:9; Luke 4:16-19; and John 3:16 (see many other biblical references in the study papers for Centennial Ecumenical Gathering). Tune: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864.

Text: Copyright © 2010 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Hymn Use Permission: Free use of this hymn is given to any congregation that supports the ecumenical work of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and/or Church World Service. 

  1. This is such a beautifully written hymn. I would love to have this in our church. I think this is good, but I will not be surprised if the liberals in the PCUSA and many other denominations use this to support a liberal/Episcopalian-type Universalism. We must be careful. But, overall, I can't wait until we can sing this hymn in our churches.

    by Caleb Carter

    November 4, 2010

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