A weekly blog of Ideas for Leading Creative Worship
This Worship Outside the Box post offers a hymn to sing with your congregation.
The hymn appears in our PDF ebook: Kindle a Flame
Loving God of Aotearoa
Words: Philip Garside. Tune: Thaxted - Gustav Holst
Loving God of Aotearoa,
hear now our call to you,
We have gathered in your presence,
to celebrate anew!
We have come from many places,
speaking, thinking differently,
But in you we are united,
one whole, strong family.
Let us heed your call to service
and follow lovingly,
May we be compassionate people,
alive in you and free.
who spread your light and love.
Now inspire, lead, direct us,
so we can be like them.
May the Way that Christ has taught us,
and the power of your Word,
Set a fire burning in us,
for justice and for love.
Rimu tall, with tui singing,
proclaim your majesty,
You who care for all creation,
will always care for me.
Matariki’s spirit guide us,
rise within us all the year.
Help us live and speak forgiveness,
your people want to hear.
• • •
About this Hymn
Rev Desmond Cooper, our minister at the time, was president elect of the Methodist Church in 2010 and wanted a song for the Induction service at Conference. He mentioned that he liked Holst’s tune Thaxted (I vow to thee my country) but would prefer alternative words that were less nationalistic.
Loving God of Aotearoa is the result. I consulted Desmond and vice president elect Susanne Spindler as the lyrics were being written and they smoothed off a few rough corners. The hymn is dedicated to Desmond and was sung at the Methodist Conference in Palmerston North in 2010.
Several themes are brought together in the hymn. The first is the idea that God is present with us in our country Aotearoa New Zealand as well as the rest of the world and creation.
The Methodist church here is diverse culturally and yet we are linked together by a faith in God.
As for “Happy are we who have work to do” – see earlier post – the refrain calls us to offer compassionate service to others.
Verse 2 acknowledges those people of faith who have gone before us and asks that we also be fired by the holy spirit to seek justice in our time.
Rimu is a forest giant native red pine and the tui has gorgeous, melodious call.
Matariki, in mid-winter, is the traditional Maori New Year. It celebrates the rising above the horizon early in the morning of the seven sisters group of stars also known as the Pleiades and Subaru. I have symbolically linked this new start to the year to giving and receiving forgiveness as way to put old hurts, of all kinds, behind us and to move forward in freedom and hope.
Performing this hymn
The hymn is best accompanied by piano or organ. Don’t set it in a higher key.
The word “compassionate” in the refrain is spread across only three notes and may need to be practised.
A challenge for worship leaders in other countries
The hymn's title and some of the imagery relates to our country Aotearoa New Zealand.
Can you find an alternative title and symbols / concepts that will work for your congregation in your setting?
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