The work of Living Waters for the World has provided Carolyn Winfrey Gillette the ideal opportunity to do the thing she is passionate about: set new lyrics to a familiar hymn tune. The result is a new hymn, given to Living Waters for the World, and just in time to celebrate World Water Day, March 22.
Based on passages from John 4 and Matthew 10 and 25, the hymn centers around the experience of the woman at the well. It focuses on the gift of water, the life it brings, and on the bonds formed when water is shared. And it captures the essence of what Living Waters for the World is all about.
Gillette, and her husband Bruce Gillette, are co-pastors of the Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. The church is no stranger to Living Waters for the World, acting as a strong financial partner to the ministry and an enthusiastic user of the Living Waters for the World vacation bible school curriculum, Clean Water for all God’s Children.
Gillette’s understanding of Living Waters for the World, the spiritual significance of water, and her love of mission shine through in the hymn:
BEACH SPRING 18.104.22.168. D (“God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending”)
Once a woman seeking water at a well not far from home
Met a thirsty, waiting stranger from a people not her own.
Would she give a drink of water and respond to human need?
Could she know the joy and wonder she, the giver, would receive?
She drew water for the thirsty; Jesus offered something more:
Living water, God’s own mercy, love abundant, freely poured.
One, a blessing for the body; one, a blessing for the soul!
Both are gifts of our Creator—gifts that help to make us whole.
Still God’s people carry water from their wells and mountain streams;
Still at rivers women gather, sharing labor, sharing dreams.
Still a cup of water given in a dry and weary place
Is a blessing overflowing from the fountain of God’s grace.
God, we ask your richest favor on the work we seek to do;
May we gladly share clean water and your living water, too.
May we see the face of Jesus, and how far your love extends,
In the ones we call our partners—no more strangers, now our friends.
Living Waters for the World is the mission project of the Synod of Living Waters. Founded in the early 1990’s by the Rev. Wil Howie, the organization trains and equips all-volunteer teams to work with in-country community leaders to install clean water systems and lead health and hygiene education. Since its beginning, Living Waters for the World and its partners have installed and maintained 441 water systems in communities around the globe.
The hymn is an added resource to use in worship to enhance awareness about the importance and need for clean water. In addition to the hymn, other worship resources can be found on the LWW website. These resources are available to educate congregations about the world water crisis and how they can respond.
World Water Day is an annual day of awareness sponsored by the United Nations. Gillette’s hymn celebrates both water and the grace that comes with the giving and receiving of water. It may be used for free by local congregations who support Living Waters for the World.
“We are deeply thankful to Carolyn Winfrey Gillette for the gift of Once a Woman Seeking Water; how blessed we are! The story of the woman at the well is one of the Gospel’s most powerful, and speaks to our work and our belief that Jesus Christ is living water for our bodies and souls,” commented LWW executive director Wil Howie.
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is a popular writer of new hymn texts to well-known hymn tunes. Her hymns have been featured on PBS and the BBC. Her hymns are used by the Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, Presbyterians Today magazine, Theology & Worship’s Hungry Hearts newsletter, and Call to Worship journal. She is the author of Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God & Neighbor and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today’s Worship.
Janet Tuck is communications director for the Synod of Living Waters.