The Common Good

Hymns for September 11

Many people remember "O God, Our Words Cannot Express," a hymn written on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. The hymn was quickly shared by email and Web postings (it is still on over 10,000 websites); it was used by many churches on that evening and in the days that followed. The hymn was featured in newspaper stories, radio programs, twice on national PBS-TV, and on BBC-TV in the United Kingdom. YouTube has the Church World Service music video by Emmy winner Pete Staman of this hymn being sung by Noel Paul Stookey (of "Peter, Paul & Mary") with the Northfield Mount Herman School Choir.

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The new posting of this interfaith hymn includes a revised version for the 10th anniversary. Also included is "God, We've Known Such Grief and Anger", a hymn lifting up Christian hope in the face of disaster that was written for the first year anniversary of 9/11. Last week I wrote a new hymn for the tenth anniversary of September 11 with an emphasis on working for peace and justice for all.

O God, Our Hearts Were Shattered
7.6.7.6 D LLANGLOFFAN ("O God of Earth and Altar")

O God, our hearts were shattered On that horrendous day;
We heard the news and gathered To grieve and then to pray.
We cried to you and wondered, "Where did the violence start?"
The world as we had known it Had just been torn apart.

We heard of those who perished-- Of heroes' sacrifice.
We paused again to cherish The gifts of love and life.
We worried for the future; We hugged our loved ones then.
We cried, "Can peace be found here?" "We can't let terror win!"

Some sought to answer terror The only way they knew--
With anger toward the stranger And calls for vengeance, too.
Yet this is not your answer, Nor what you would create.
May we live toward a future Where love will conquer hate.

God, give us faith and wisdom To be your healing hands;
Give open minds that listen To truth from all your lands.
Give strength to work for justice; Grant love that casts out fear.
Then peace and not destruction Will be the victor here.

Tune: Welsh Folk Melody, Evans' Hymnau a Thonau, 1865 as in English Hymnal, 1906.

Alternative Tune: PASSION CHORALE 7.6.7.6 D Hans Leo Hassler, 1601, Harm. Johann Sebastian Bach, 1729

Text: Copyright © 2011 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Email: bcgillette@comcast.net Website: www.carolynshymns.com

Hymn Use Permission: Churches that support Sojourners have permission to use these hymns. Music for the hymn call also be found on the National Council of Churches website.

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Discipleship Resources/Upper Room Books, 2009) and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today's Worship (Geneva Press, 2000) and the co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Sojourners' past postings by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette includes hymns for creation care, economic justice, Matthew 25/disaster relief, immigration, the Gulf oil spill and war in Iraq. A complete list of the 190+ hymns by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, many with peace and justice themes, can be found at www.carolynshymns.com

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