Sing Justice! Do Justice!
A Collection of New Hymns and Songs
with New and Familiar Tunes
Hymn text and tune collection
Author Various, foreword by Walter Brueggemann
Released June 1998
Catalog no. 125-201 (Soft-cover, 48 pp.)
Price $11.00 (U.S.)
A powerful new collection of 25 hymns chosen from the submissions to the hymn search for hymns on the theme of justice sponsored by The Hymn Society and Alternatives for Simple Living. Includes the winning hymn by David Robb, "Children from your vast creation," and the honorable mention hymns by John Core, Mary Nelson Keithahn, and Amanda Udis-Kessler. The hymn texts are set to familiar or newly-composed tunes.
This important contribution to contemporary hymnody will inspire you and change the way you think about the world and how you live in the world today as a child of God.
Also includes hymns by John A. Dalles, Edith Sinclair Downing, Rusty Edwards, Betsy Phillips Fisher, Jean E. Garriott, Susan C. Gardstrom, Richard Leach, Beth Rice Luttrell, Kathleen R. Moore, Shirley Erena Murray, Herman Stuempfle, William Whitla, and Rae E. Whitney.
"Sing Justice! Do Justice! is, without doubt, the finest hymnal supplement I have yet encountered. Beyond the avowed intent of its title, it neither makes concession to special interest nor does it pander to the lowest common denominator of congregational song. Such integrity (wholeness) is astonishing, and I cannot recommend it too highly for use. Given Selah's generous one-time license for copyrights ($10 per hymn per use), there is no excuse not to see these moving hymns appear in liturgy sheets this fall." --Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, September 1998
"Recently, the globe sang gloriously. Through the marvel of technology we followed the New Year through many countries. As we become more connected throughout the world, via mass communication, we are no longer isolated from each other. We can and should sing together in sonic communion. Sing Justice! Do Justice! is a timely collection of new hymns and songs, with new and familiar tunes that provide a forum for communal song.
The collection is a collaborative project of two organizations, Alternatives for Simple Living and The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, Inc., and contains the results of a search the organizations conducted for hymns on justice.
The judges for the collaborative hymn-writing competition were Rae Whitney, Walter Brueggemann and Gerald Iverson. This esteemed threesome brought great skills of writing, editing, and profound interest in hymns and ecumenism to their task of selecting hymns for this collection
The prize-winning hymn, "Children from Your Vast Creation" by David Robb is set to the beloved folk tune, BEACH SPRING. The four stanzas follow a praise, confession, assurance of pardon and petition that "your will is done!" The language is commodious yet stimulating. By writing in this style, this hymn is timeless, not trendy.
Shirley Erena Murray's hymn "A Place at the Table" received honorable mention. The tune was composed by fellow New Zealander, Colin Gibson. The five stanzas and refrain allude to worldwide community and communion, where all are fed. This hymn text is particularly interesting in its consistency between stanzas. This clean, clear writing makes setting a tune particularly exciting for a tune writer. The tune is certainly singable and complements the text well, another positive sign for a hymn's longevity.
Scriptural allusions are recorded, when possible. For the most part, tunes are well matched with texts, making the hymns singable or learnable. My one disappointment is the choice of the tune MIT FREUDEN ZART for John Dalles' hymn, "O Justice Giver, Make Us Just!" The collision of text stresses and music stresses has the effect of making the text sound forced; reading the text aloud brings better awareness of what it is "singing."
Other respected hymn writers included in this collection are Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr., Richard Leach, Rusty Edwards, Mary Nelson Keithahn. Tunes are arranged or composed by Al Fedak, Roy, Hopp, Wayne Wold, John Horman, and Margaret Mealy. The work of author-composer Amanda Udis-Kessler is new to me and a most welcome addition to the world of new hymns.
This is an important additional resource for all who seek to promote the causes of the oppressed with new sparks of awareness and concern. Several of these hymns will undoubtedly be included in the next generation of hymnals. That will surely be welcomed by a world better acquainted through satellites' sonic songs."
--Sue Mitchell Wallace in The Hymn, April 2000
Foreword by Walter Brueggemann
From its very earliest days, the church has sung its faith. Indeed, even its great doctrinal formulations that eventually became flat intellectualism were originally lyrical, poetic assertions done in defiance of worldly logic. There is good reason that the church-this Easter people-sings faith in times of persecution and in times of seduction. The singing is a sustained refusal to submit faith to the logic and reason of the world. Thus in its lyrical, imaginative utterance, the church has always insisted on its own peculiar discourse, ready TO SUBVERT what seems settled and ready to imagine what the world thinks impossible.
It is clear that the hymnic repertoire of the church is endlessly open, dynamic, and generative. That is why there is no end to the making of new music in the church, the publishing of new hymnals. The characteristic hymnal of the church is always doing two things to situate worship in the long history of the church. First, the hymnal is a way The Church Remembers its most treasured cadences of mothers and fathers in faith. Every hymnal committee either reiterates or echoes old tunes and old phrases in its singing, and this hymnal is no exception to that practice. The church goes deep into its past and keeps that past available and powerful to the present.
But second, the church that faithfully remembers is also the church that Hopes in God's future and Obeys in the present. And because God's summons to the church is always immediate and fresh, so there are hymns generated in the present tense.
The present hymnal represents an astonishing effort by a large company of people with energy and imagination and faith, ready to be singing afresh. It is a new hymnody of justice, for God's justice is an urgent matter in an unjust world. In singing justice in these hymns, the church engages in an act of lyrical obedience. Justice, however, is not a fad in the church. That accent, rather, is very old in the church's repertoire. It was the theme of Mary in her primal utterance in which she echoes mother Hannah:
He has filled the hungry with good things,
He has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:53; see I Sam. 2:5)
And behind Mary is the Psalter of Israel that endlessly sings of the God of justice:
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the stranger;
He upholds the orphan and the widow. (Psalm 146:7-9)
None of us, I suspect, would have expected that the invitation of Alternatives would evoke such a rich and daring response as this collection reflects. The response is a measure of the insistence of the church, in our time, to preserve and enact its own discourse, its "mother tongue," a refusal to flatten faith into manageable, technological categories.
I anticipate that this hymnal will take its own important place in the worship life of the church, for many will discern here that God's own restless spirit is on the lips of the faithful. Given these hymns, we may wish, with Charles Wesley, for more tongues-at least a thousand-to sing our dear liberator's praise.
Columbia Theological Seminary
If you would like your comments on this publication to appear here, fill out our online review comments form.