Hymns of Peace

How many hymns can you name whose texts are about peace? After the suggestions of Let There Be Peace on Earth and This is My Song, what hymns are left to sing of peace? There may be a few choral arrangements and solo pieces we can uplift, but very few congregational hymns name our hearts weeping desire for peace. With over 3,000 casualties of American soldiers in Iraq, and countless—literally uncountable, numbers of Iraqis killed during this hostile season of their country’s history, we seem at a loss for hymns of peace and concord. What is there for us to sing? How can we keep from singing?

The recent Annual Women’s Forum at Candler School of Theology on “Women and Peacemaking” offered some anthems and themes for us to sing in times of great need for peace and stillness in our hearts, lives, and in the world. The Women in Theology and Ministry Program’s forum met for two days last week, and offered several conversations over meals, including “Peacemakers Telling Their Stories” and “Peacemaking Through Art.”

The noonday storytelling luncheon featured a Midrash written and orated by Kim Jackson, a Master of Divinity Middler, as well as a monologue written and performed by Kanisha Billingsley, MDiv middler, about AIDS and the violence and silence it causes. Kim’s provocative line, “I bled the tears I could not shed,” speaking from the voice of the woman who touched Jesus’ garment and was healed of her bleeding, found in all three synoptic gospels, led us solemnly into a conversation about peacemaking with Professor Renee Harrison, Interim Director of Black Church Studies and Visiting Assistant Professor of West African and African American Religious Practices and Culture, and Senator Nan Orrock, a Georgia State Senator since 1987, who began her work for justice and peace in the Civil Rights Movement with she worked for SNCC in Atlanta and Mississippi. Dr. Harrison asked us repeatedly, “How would you define peace in terms of your own existence and life experiences?” As each of us departed that lunch conversation, we contemplated our own thoughts on being peacemakers and peacekeepers in the context of our personal life as well as ministry.

When the forum resumed for dinner, three Candler students offered artist interpretations of peacemaking through presentations of photography, dance, and spoken word. The talent and gifts of the Candler community continue to amaze and delight me, and this evening was another such occasion. Just as I inquired above about hymns of peace, Professor James Abbington, Associate Professor of Music and Worship, in his presentation on “Peacemaking through Music,” also asked us that same question. While the dinner guests commiserated about the Church’s lack of hymns and sacred texts about peace, he introduced us to several contemporary women hymn writers who are writing moving, current, fresh hymn texts on peace, which can often be set to traditional and standard hymn tunes. I ask again, with this gift of new language for the gospel message and call to peace: How can we keep from singing?

Professor Abbington and his co-presenter, Rev. Cynthia Wilson, a Deacon in The United Methodist Church, popular preacher, teacher, conductor, concert artist, and Grammy nominee, shared a creative array of hymns and songs of peace, which we spoke and sang together, as we formed a congregation over the dinner tables.

As a closing reflection, I offer one of the hymn texts shared with us that evening. May the Peace of Christ Be Yours was written by Mary Louise Bringle, who received her PhD from the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University and is currently on the faculty at Brevard College in North Carolina. These beautiful words that take us through the seasons of the year remind me that peace does not just mean a lack of war or an end to violence. Rather, peace is a state of mind, a calm heart, a soothing spirit, and a grace-filled gift from God.

May the Peace of Christ Be Yours

May the peace of rolling oceans,
glinting green with silver foam
through the pull of tides and seasons:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of winter stillness,
snowflakes piling white on white
showing ev’ry creature’s footprints:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of springtime raindrops
and the scent of moistened grass
clad in lilies of the valley:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of summer evenings,
darkness hung with shooting stars
and the fireflies’ dance of gladness:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of autumn mountains
etched in gold against the sky,
hushed and strong through countless ages:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

Text: Mary Louise Bringle, 2002; Copyright 2006,
GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission.

The Women in Theology and Ministry Program is not the only outlet at Candler to discuss peace, hymnody, and gather with the community for a free meal. There are countless opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to be in dialogue together about all of the pressing theological, social, and personal life issues surrounding us, and we would love for you to join in that conversation. If you are interested in enrolling at Candler or talking to someone about your own discernment process, please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, find us online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.


By Lane Cotton Winn 07T

Candler School of Theology
Emory University
Office of Admissions
and Financial Aid Intern


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