Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of over 400 hymns that have been sung by thousands of congregations around the world, and are found in 20 books and thousands of web sites, including www.carolynshymns.com. Many of her hymns are published at Sojourners and are also found in Christian Century magazine, The New Yorker, National Public Radio, and PBS-TV. She and her husband Bruce are Presbyterian ministers who have served congregations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. View the Sojourners video on Carolyn's hymns here.
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When Nations Turn Toward Trouble
When nations turn toward trouble
and hope seems all but gone,
when threats and conflicts double,
what can we count upon?
A Hymn for Sutherland Springs, Texas
Our thoughts and prayers are fleeting breath.
If we just dream of what could be
And do not build community,
And do not seek to change our ways,
Our dreams of change are false displays.
Young Joseph the Dreamer
We thank you for thousands of sisters and brothers
Who seek education, who love this good land.
For they are a blessing to us and to others;
May we reach to offer a welcoming hand.
O God, We’ve Prayed in Wind and Rain
We pray for others far away
Who’ve seen destruction, too;
We look beyond ourselves, for they
Are also loved by you.
O Christ, We Remember the Things That You Did
By the grace of our God, you brought life to the earth;
As you healed those in need, you saw each person’s worth.
May we who proclaim you now answer your call
To bring hope and healing — and health care to all.
We’re Made in the Image: A New Poem for Health Care for All
We’re made in the image
The Message expresses,
The Good News attests
That we’re formed out of sod,
That we’re made every one
A Little Bit of Salt
A church that is filled with Jesus’ flavor — and that shares the light of God’s love — can make a profound difference in the world. Pastors, church leaders, and many other loving Christians have been active in welcoming refugees and immigrants, standing up for their rights, contacting their leaders in Congress, protesting unjust policies, and saying clearly that hate has no place in this country.
A New Father, Awe-Struck
“A New Father, Awe-Struck” is a new hymn-prayer written days before Christmas 2016. It begins with a traditional image of a manger scene, and becomes a prayer that we may look deeper— at our loving God who chose to come into this world as someone who was poor, powerless, in danger, and a refugee.
A Hymn-Prayer for the Election
God, may this time of anger be over;
May we grow past our current divide.
Make us as one, as sisters and brothers;
In this good land, may your love abide.
A Hymn: For Schoolchildren and All Who Love Them
Robert Putnam’s new book, Our Kids: The Crisis in the American Dream, laments the decline in social capital (how we are connected to others and care for them) with its devastating impact on poor children today. Past generations of poor children often had more opportunities because they benefited from connections with churches, teachers, coaches, and other mentors who supported them. Putnam, a respected Harvard sociologist, documents how too many children are missing these caring adults in their lives today. He offers "purple solutions" to the growing "opportunity gap" and poverty that includes support by all for public schools.
Many churches witness to their concern for school children with a "Blessing of the Backpacks" service. Some churches invite the children in the congregation to bring their own backpacks for a blessing before a new school year begins. This is a way to acknowledge that school is a common yet very important part of our children’s lives. Other churches collect school supplies for children in need, assemble the donated supplies in backpacks, and bring them to church for a blessing in worship.
The tune of the following new hymn is the same Gaelic melody used for "Morning Has Broken," and it seems appropriate to sing a joyful "morning" tune as children, parents, and teachers start to get up earlier in the mornings to head off to school.
They Met to Read the Bible
They met to read the Bible, they gathered for a prayer,
They worshiped God and shared with friends and welcomed strangers there.
They went to church to speak of love, to celebrate God’s grace.
O Lord, we tremble when we hear what happened in that place.
A New Hymn on Jesus’ Protest: When Christ Went to the Temple
When Christ Went to the Temple
LLANGLOFFAN 184.108.40.206 D (“Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers”)
When Christ went to the Temple to worship God one day,
He entered through the courtyard where anyone could pray.
That court was for the nations--and all could enter in.
But Jesus found a market, a shameful robbers’ den.
There, cattle, sheep, and pigeons were sold for sacrifice,
And moneychangers shouted of quality and price.
Outsiders could not enter the inner courts for prayer.
Their only place to worship was in the courtyard there.
A New Hymn-Prayer for Donor Sabbath
The Need Is Real: You can literally be a lifesaver by being an organ donor. Here are some important facts about donation:
• Someone is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes. Over 120,000 people are waiting for organ donations.
• Each day, an average of 79 people receive organ transplants. However, an average of 18 people die each day waiting for transplants that can't take place because of the shortage of donated organs.
• People of every age give and receive organ donations.
Hymn writer Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has been a chaplain for a hospital and several hospices. She is grateful for suggestions for this hymn from her husband Bruce Gillette (he has served on a hospital ethics committee), hospital Chaplains Tim Rodden and Sister Julian Wilson and ethicist Christian Iosso. This hymn is dedicated to the memory of Roy Timmer, a faithful Christian, a wonderful friend and an organ donor who helped many people.
God, Each Day You Give is Precious
A Hymn for Donor Sabbath
A New Hymn for Sunday: Rendering to Caesar and to God
“Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes?”
“Is it lawful to pay taxes when they prop up Caesar’s rule?”
So some people asked of Jesus, wanting him to seem a fool.
Saying “no” would be sedition; saying “yes” would be a sin.
Jesus changed the conversation, calling them to look within.
“Find a tax coin in your treasure; see the image that it bears.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. (Give to rulers what is theirs.)”
Yet he pressed on with his message; “Give to God what is God’s own.”
We who bear our Maker’s image worship God and God alone.
A New Hymn for Sunday: 'Once a Father Told His Children'
A Hymn for This Sunday
This hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette asks the question what does it mean to be a Christian, a church? Whom do we serve? How shall we respond to those in need? It is based on the lectionary passage Matthew 21:23-32 (September 28, 2014). The United Methodist Worship Office has formatted the hymn with the music as a free download.
Once a Father Told His Children
NETTLETON 220.127.116.11 D (“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”)
Once a father told his children,
“Go and do your daily chores.
Go and work out in my vineyard;
All that’s mine will soon be yours.”
One responded, “I won’t do it!”
Then he changed his mind and went.
One said, “Yes! Just send me to it!”
But he went back home again.
'The Children Come': A New Hymn on the Exodus of Children from Central America to the U.S. Border
This new hymn is inspired by the crisis in Central America that has caused over 70,000 children to take the dangerous journey to the United States in recent months. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has led many mission trips to Honduras for the past sixteen years. The brother of a child that Carolyn sponsored in Honduras was recently killed there.
The hymn’s reference to “On one boy’s belt, a number carved in leather” is from a news report ("Boy's Death Draws Attention Immigration Perils") of a body of a dead child found with his brother’s phone number on his belt.
“As angry crowds are shouting, “Go away!” comes from the news reports of Americans yelling at the detained children on buses in Murrieta, California. Jim Wallis of Sojourners reflects on this incident in his powerful online essay “The Moral Failure of Immigration Reform: Are We Really Afraid Of Children?" Biblical references in the hymn are Matthew 25:31-46 and Matthew 19:14-16.
A New Hymn for Foster Children and Those Who Love Them
Author's Note: This hymn is written with gratitude for foster parents, social workers, and others who do seek to do their best for abused and neglected children and youth. It is written as a prayer for the many children and youth who are failed by a broken system that too often ignores their cries and rights. Parts of this hymn, especially, are written as a prayer for one small boy who was our foster son for nineteenth months and is no longer in our care, but who will always be in our hearts. Sojourners' January 2014 issue had several helpful articles on foster parenting.
Lord, Hear the Cries of Children
PASSION CHORALE 18.104.22.168 D (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)
Lord, hear the cries of children who struggle every day,
Caught up in failing systems that steal their hope away.
Some find they’re lost to violence, then lost in foster care.
They long for life’s abundance! Lord, hear their pleading prayer.
A Hymn-Prayer on Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Jesus' teaching to his followers in John 14:6 is a challenging one in our world filled with people of diverse faiths: "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." See " What Do Our Beliefs Say About Us?" by Rev. Dr. Guy Nave. The following new hymn lifts up Jesus' teaching in the context of his inclusive ministry seeking God's love and justice for all. John 14:1-14 is the Revised Common Lectionary gospel lesson that will be read in many churches this coming Sunday, May 18th.
Christ, You Are the Savior
ASH GROVE (“Let All Things Now Living”)
A New Hymn for Lamenting the Death Penalty for Christ the King
“Lord, when were you in prison?” we’ll ask of you one day;
And when did we go visit you, and listen well, and pray?
And when did we show mercy there (as we need mercy, too)?
As we love those in prison, Lord, we show our love to you!
When you taught love of neighbor, had you heard in your time
Of one who lay beside the road, a victim of a crime?
The neighbor that you said was good brought help and wholeness, too;
May we help those who hurt so much from crimes that others do.
A New Hymn for Lamenting Gun Violence and Racism
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, a pastor who is a foster mother to a four year-old African American boy, wrote this hymn after George Zimmerman was found not guilty for his shooting of Trayvon Martin. She had read Jim Wallis’ “Lament from a White Father” and heard the Rev. Otis Moss of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ interviewed for the NPR report, “For The Boys Who See Themselves In Trayvon Martin.”
We Pray for Youth We Dearly Love
O WALY WALY LM (“Though I May Speak”)
Solo (optional young voice):
“If I should die before I wake,
I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take....
And if I die on violent streets,
I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep."
(Continued at the jump)