Hymns in the Midst of Pandemic

6 mins read

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a sharp reminder about human frailty even as it has been an occasion of tremendous generosity, hospitality, self-sacrifice, compassion, and love. For all the good we have seen, we have also suffered through an openly and proudly racist, sexist, anti-science, homophobic, xenophobic government that cares only about and for the wealthy and their corporations, a government that is more than willing to allow people to suffer and die to prop up Mammon. The good we see around us invites us to join in working for that good; the cruelty and violence we see, not least on the part of our country’s leadership, demands a prophetic response grounded in our understanding that it is the will of the holy that all people flourish and that we live in ways that enable our planet to flourish as well.

The arts play an important role in our work for justice, equality, and human and planetary well-being, for music, writing, theater, dance, and other art forms have the potential to wake us up, to help us think differently, to move and touch us, and to draw us into gratitude for our lives, for creation itself, and for the sacred in its many forms, the creator that inspires our own creating. Many of us have been profoundly blessed by the ways in which artists in quarantine have generated tremendous works of creativity and shared them freely with others.

It is in that spirit that I offer here three pieces of music, two written specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and another that is several years old but still relevant. “We Are Gathered,” the traditional hymn (with new text), addresses virtual worship. “Just Such a Time as This,” the new worship song, addresses our call to rise to this occasion as lovers and healers. “The Difference,” the older folk song, reminds us that we are the ones to make the difference in a broken and heartbroken world, individually but even more so collectively, communally, and in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. I hope that these songs touch you and remind you of our many occasions for gratitude, of the work we must do to bring Love’s Domain to life in our world, and of the pain that we ourselves have the capacity to lessen when we use our gifts in the service of sacred healing.

We Are Gathered

A new hymn text to the tune of Nettleton (Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing) intended to be used in virtual worship. It lifts up our oneness in worship even as we are physically separate, addresses the range of emotions we bring to this moment, and reminds us of our call to do justice, love kindness, and work for the human and planetary flourishing that Jesus envisioned as Love’s Domain (God’s Kin-dom).

 

Just Such a Time

A new worship song, inspired by Esther 4, about the struggles we face during the COVID-19 pandemic and about our invitation to bring our best selves to healing the world. We were called for just such a time as this.

 

The Difference

From the 2018 album Rejoice! Songs and Hymns (under the band name EverySoul), this song is about our commitment to be the ones who make the difference, who bring justice, equality, and healing to the world in gratitude for the love that sustains us. The Difference was a runner-up in the 2017 Renaissance Artists and Writers Association (RAWA) “Songs for Social Change” contest and was released on their compilation album.  RAWA supports “art for service and spiritual awakening.”

 

Scores for (and additional recordings of) the two newer pieces are available at my website https://queersacredmusic.com, along with about fifty other free-use scores of hymns and worship songs as well as a growing number of recordings that can be used in virtual worship with no licensing concerns. “The Difference” is one of fifteen songs from my last album, “Rejoice! Songs and Hymns.” All fifteen songs are fully and freely available at https://everysoulmusic.com/music

Amanda Udis-Kessler is a hymnwriter, songwriter, composer and writer originally from New York City, now living in Colorado Springs, CO. She has a sociology PhD from Boston College (her dissertation was published by Routledge as Queer Inclusion in the United Methodist Church) and a certificate in theology from The Iliff School of Theology. Her hymns have been published in a number of hymnals. She currently serves informally as composer-in-residence at Vista Grande United Church of Christ, where she is a covenantal partner.

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