Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During August, John Wilkinson is curating a month of blog posts exploring where we are as a church through the lens of the new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God — what are we thinking about? how are we worshiping? what matters to us? where are we headed? Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!
By Becky D’Angelo-Veitch
I stood at the children’s worship table holding the hymnal to share with the boy next to me, ready for the morning’s last hymn. Across the short table, I shot my Play-Doh kneading daughter a look that said, “time to stand up,” and then, finally, just as the intro to the hymn began, I gave my attention to the text we were preparing to sing.
It was Independence Day weekend. The afternoon before, our family had all been together for our annual Fourth of July party. As my generation has grown into adulthood, we have traveled far further to find life partners than our parents had. Through marriage, our little family of life-long “Buffalonians” has grown to include in-laws from across the world, and so we celebrated the 4th (or “Good-riddance Day,” as my British born husband affectionately calls it) with citizens of England, Canada, Japan and the Ukraine, in addition to our Italian-American clan.
So as we worshipped on that July 5 morning, my head was still partially at our family picnic. The service had started with Hymn 338—O Beautiful for Spacious Skies. A lovely, and, indeed, appropriate choice for such a weekend; but, admittedly, not a personal favorite. Although I had sung our closing hymn, Hymn 340 a handful of times, this morning the words stuck with me in a new way:
This is my Song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the oceans,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
So hear my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms;
thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
and hearts united learn to live as one.
So hear my prayer, O God of all the nations:
myself I give thee; let thy will be done.
Having had the privilege of serving the church as a PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer in Mission years back, these words resonated with my experience. I often say that living abroad has made me both more patriotic and more critical. I am proud of the nation that I call home, but seeing our country through the eyes of others provided me with a broader lens to view our nation’s policies, attitudes and practices. This hymn spoke to me that morning of the beauty of diversity. It, more eloquently than I could, expressed that national pride is something that can unite us, and that we can serve God and God’s world best when we acknowledge and celebrate the beauty and value of every nation.
Coordinator of Children’s Ministry and Congregational Life
Third Presbyterian Church
Rochester, New York