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 websites, 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.
Posts By This Author
'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 184.108.40.206 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)
A New Hymn for Human Rights Day
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote this hymn in celebration of Human Rights Day (December 10), the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Seven years later, on Dec. 5, 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began with 40,000 African-Americans walking, bicycling or car-pooling to pressure the bus company for change. The boycott ended in victory after 381 days. December is a good month to remember past work for justice and to work for it today as we celebrate the one who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79).
A New Hymn for Justice
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote this hymn based on Micah 6:8 after attending Bread for the World’s Lobby Day on June 12th and reading Jim Wallis’ “The Missing Religious Principle in Our Budget Debates.”
O God, You Call for Justice
AURELIA 220.127.116.11 D ("The Church's One Foundation")
O God, you call for justice—for goodness, never greed!
You seek a world of fairness where all have what they need—
Where all have food and water and homes in which to thrive,
Where all have hope and laughter and joy to be alive!
Loving in Truth and Action: A New Hymn based on I John 3:16-18
“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us--and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
On April 29th, many churches will be hearing this reading from I John 3:16-24 as the Epistle Lesson for the Revised Common Lectionary for the Fourth Sunday of Easter/Year B. Here is a new hymn inspired by this biblical teaching for compassion.
A New Hymn for Holy Week: Jesus’ Ways for Peace
Holy Week and Jesus’ Ways for Peace
Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday and the week that follows — Holy Week — are times for Christians to remember and share the biblical stories of Jesus’ teachings and actions for peace. These stories encourage us to pray and work for peace, especially in light of those who are now threatening a new war with Iran. “Nine Years of War in Iraq: A Sojourners Retrospective” is a powerful reminder that churches need to do more.
Last year Sojourners posted a new hymn for Palm Sunday with peace themes, “Lord, What a Parade!” by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.
This year the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in North Carolina commissioned Carolyn to write a new hymn about Jesus’ nonviolent actions and compassion at the time of his arrest.
A New Hymn for World Water Day
The following hymn celebrates our need for clean water and the Living Water:
Once a Woman Seeking Water
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?...
A New Hymn for Ash Wednesday
O God of Love, the Fast You Choose
KINGSFOLD CMD (“Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples”)
O God of love, the fast you choose is not some great display.
It’s everything we gladly do to serve you day by day.
It’s not a moment set apart when we will mourn our sin;
For you require a change of heart— a change from what has been....
A New Matthew 25 Hymn: "O God, We Yearn For Safety"
The Sunday, Nov. 13 lectionary gospel is Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
Kari Jo Verhulst, in Sojourners, reflected on Jesus’ challenging teaching: “The point is not to perfect our particular gifts, or ourselves, but to quit hoarding ourselves from others, and instead step out in faith that we have been given all we need.”
The following new hymn affirms that Jesus’ parable calls us to faithfulness even when it involves risk and challenge today.
O God, we yearn for safety; We long to be secure.
Yet faithful, loving service Is what you value more.
You give us what is needed; You love, forgive and save.
Then, sending us to serve you, You call us to be brave.
You give to some ten talents—to others, two or three;
To some you give one blessing To manage faithfully. ...
A Hymn for Blessing the Animals: "O God, Your Creatures Fill the Earth"
A Hymn for Somalia
[Editors' note: Below is a hymn written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette to inspire churches to further support and pray for famine relief in Somalia.]
O God, You Love the Needy
22.214.171.124 D LLANGLOFFAN ("Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers")
O God, you love the needy and care for all the poor!
Today our hearts are heavy with news of drought and war.
When plantings yield no harvest, when hungry people die,
When families flee, defenseless -- Lord, hear your people's cry!
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.
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.
A Hymn Celebrating God's Creation
Lord, What a Parade!: A Hymn for Palm Sunday
God, We Have Heard It: A Hymn Lamenting Gun Violence
[Editors' note: Below is a hymn written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette lamenting gun violence. We hope you find it helpful in light of the shootings in Arizona.]