Thursday, 26 January 2012

Ditching the Redeemer

Yesterday I attended the Consecration of John Wraw as Bishop of Bradwell and Tim Dakin as Bishop of Winchester at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a great service with a powerful and challenging sermon from Stephen Cottrell the Bishop of Chelmsford. The hymns were traditional and predictable but I didn’t have a problem until it came to the offertory hymn Crown Him With Many Crowns. As we sang the last verse things didn’t seem quite right and my mate Graham Tomlin standing next to me identified the problem; the words of the last verse had been changed. Here’s the original:
Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.
And here is what replaced it in the service:
Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
Glassed in a sea of light, Where everlasting waves
Reflect his throne – the Infinite! Who lives – and loves – and saves.
So why have we ditched the Redeemer? I can only assume its because the original words smack of an atonement theology the cathedral authorities or whoever drew up the service feel uncomfortable with. If that’s the case then why did we keep the opening verse?
Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
I’m getting a bit fed up of all the tinkering going on with hymns at various services I attend. Our own cathedral in Chelmsford changes the lines of In Christ Alone because of the unease with the ‘Wrath of God’ in the original. Apart from it probably being a copyright infringement I can’t help wondering why we sing it if people are uncomfortable with the lyrics.

Looking at the new ending for Crown Him I'm really not sure what it means. The original speaks of Christ being praised for eternity because of all that he has done for us. The new version sounds like a discarded Beatles song from their LSD phase.

Anyway, I’m praying for our new bishop John Wraw and for Tim Dakin as he takes up his ministry in Winchester and I’ll carry on praising the Redeemer and leave others to wallow in the everlasting waves.

John Wraw

Update: I am grateful to the Archdruid for doing some research for me (see comments). It turns out that the last verse we sang is the original version of that verse which has since been amended over the years. The song has a long history, coloured by a bit of catholic / protestant rivalry and there is a brief summary posted here. I still think this version is bordering on the nonsensical and don't know why it was chosen over the much more familiar and I would suggest theologically accessible 'redeemer' version.


Archdruid Eileen said...

I think you may find that "glassed in a sea of light" was the original end to that verse, before somebody did a "cut and shut" on a couple of verses of that immensely long and historically complex hymn.

There's some interesting stuff on the hymn being made more Anglican at the link I'[ve enclosed.

Loo said...

Ohhh well never mind, I have had to tolerate many a hurtful masculine biased hymn.

Bradwell, my spiritual space. I love the chapel there.

God Bless,

Gill said...

They kept the "Potentate of time, creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime", which is a) the really important bit - because I like it! - and b) not what Mission Praise did. Mutter mutter.

And hang on - "he lives, and loves and saves?" Doesn't that imply redemption?

"Apart from it probably being a copyright infringement I can’t help wondering why we sing it if people are uncomfortable with the lyrics." Well, if the worship leader / leader of the service chooses the song, and you're in the congregation.... ;-)

I don't sing the line "the wrath of God was satisfied". I've been thinking a bit about atonement theology, as one does, the past few years, and am increasingly less keen on this satisfaction atonement theory (or whatever the correct terminology is) that Stuart Townend has to get into every blooming song he writes. Briefly, I don't much like the picture it paints of God, but more importantly, what is the point of the resurrection if redemption is all about the death of Jesus for my sins?

If that's a helpful & Godly understanding, then grand. But it's not the only understanding, and those of us who might like to think differently have an ever decreasing pool of songs to choose from.

I'm in favour of tinkering with songs. I'm sure I would not be were I the author of them. Tinkering shows some thought and reflection on what we're singing about. And songs aren't gospel...

I think it's worth reflecting on what actually shapes the day-to-day Christian belief & practice of us pew regulars. Books? Yes, a bit. Bible study? Yes, a bit. Prayer? Yes, a bit. Sermons? Mais oui. :-) The songs we sing regularly and know all the words to? Emphatically. For better or worse.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Hear hear to Phil's point.

As to "I don't much like the picture it paints of God" - does it matter what I like??

Gill said...

John, hello! How did your search for decent liberal theology go?

There's a facetious answer and a thoughtful answer to your question. Facetiously, yes it matters what you like (or perhaps what you think is a better term) because you're a person of ordained importance. It matters not a jot what I like, since I'm an average Jo in the pew who should almost certainly not be displaying my ignorance on a widely read blog written and read by people who know lots of things.

More thoughtfully, it matters to me what I like, or rather what I think. If the understanding of God's character given in that particular bit of "In Christ Alone" or whatever song it is, is the correct one, and I'm wrong, then fine. I can live with that. My parish church is gracious enough to let me turn up & join in anyway...

I don't think what I'd like to sing is any more important than what you'd like to sing - if that's what you're getting at. I was responding to Phil's point about why people might not like certain words and might want to change them.