This was rather unexpected.
I’ve never sung this one before – lyrics are by Thomas Mikelson, who wrote the magnificent lyrics to Wake Now My Senses and was my home congregation’s first interim minister. The tune is by another colleague, Fred Wooden, whose generosity means a few of his books (pictured) are now in my library.
So even though I know the writers of this hymn, I’ve never sung it before. And that’s a shame, because this is a terrific hymn.
First, let’s look at Mikelson’s lyrics:
Sing of living, sing of dying, let them both be joined in one,
parts of an eternal process like the ever-circling sun.
From the freshness of each infant giving hope in what is new,
to the wisdom of the aged deepened by a longer view.
Open to a deeper loving, open to the gift of care,
searching for a higher justice, helping others in despair.
Through the tender bonds of living in a more inclusive way
we are opened more to suffering from the losses of each day.
My only criticism is that it’s only about generational differences, in a time when we need to sing about other differences as well. But maybe this is the jumping off point for services about living inclusively and expansively, living as if we believe the first principle.
The tune is lovely – a bit unexpected in places, but that gives it depth. It’s interesting that it’s set in 3/2 with 2/2 measures to even it off; it could easily been done in a squarer 4/4, but then the song wouldn’t dance. And while some people flip away as soon as they see time signature changes, they come naturally here and allow the melody to pulse rather than plod.
That I’d never sung this before is a shame. But I’m grateful to sing it now, this lovely, unexpected hymn.
It’s my understanding that Mikelson originally intended this lyric to be set to the “Hymn to Joy” tune (“Joyful Joyful we adore thee…”), which I believe would have been a huge mistake. I’m glad the hymnal commission looked for a different tune — I just wish the “Enoch” setting was not so challenging. Perhaps the melody would be more singable if the piano accompaniment was less weird and a bit more straightforward. Because it’s so difficult, I imagine this hymn gets sung by very few congregations, which is a shame.