lutheran or episcopalian hymn?

A parishioner accosted me after church at coffee hour and suggested that we should sing “Holy,holy, holy” or “A Mighty Fortress” in honor of our assistant priest sometime. The requester caught me off guard because he had tossed out a  comment which took me a moment to register.

Our assistant priest is a Lutheran minister. The ELCA branch of the Lutheran Church has an arrangement with the American Episcopal church in which clergy can serve in either denomination (if I understand this correctly).

I smiled non-committedly at the parishioner. Hymn requests are a tricky thing. My understanding is that public liturgical worship is diminished when it is used for self-expression (Sing my favorite hymn!).

I worked for a fine Roman Catholic priest who would never talk about his own musical predilections in my presence. He didn’t want his music director (me) to be influenced by his tastes.

I did say in response to this request that I had actually worked for the assistant in the Lutheran church and that we do use Lutheran music in our services. (How could one not?)

After he walked away, I realized that he had identified “Holy, holy, holy” as a Lutheran heritage piece. I admit that when he first said it, I thought he was talking about the Sanctus portion of the service which is sometimes called “Holy, holy.”

It took me awhile to realize he meant the hymn which begins that way.

The pairing of Heber’s text with Dykes’ tune occurred for the first time in the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. Nothing more English and less German.

Reginald Heber (1783-1826)
John B. Dykes (1823-1876).

I continue to read of J.R. Watson’s The English Hymn. This morning he has just arrived chronologically at this hymnal. It has been helpful to my understanding to follow Watson’s elucidation of the evolution of English hymnody. This places Hymns Ancient and Modern as a hymnal which was consciously put together and promoted to reach over the many divisions of the English Christian church people at the time (sectaries as they were called).

The elderly parishioner who caught me after church yesterday was educated at Valparaiso University and seemed to identify strongly with the Lutheran tradition.

Pretty ironic that in his mind “Holy, holy, holy” was as Lutheran as “A Mighty Fortress.” Would that I had been a bit more nimble in my response. Missed the teaching moment I guess.


Went to log on to the OED this weekend and discovered that my Hope College privileges have expired. What a revoltin’ development! Hope College has classes today. So after class I plan to stop by and see if I can rectify this.

Recently after a comment about my attire (“nice shorts”) with an odd look from the chair of the department, I realized that I would dress any way they wanted if they would let me keep my online access to stuff. I mentioned this to Eileen and added, “I would cut my hair to keep that stuff.”

Looks like I jinxed it. Hopefully it will be possible (but probably a hassle) to get reinstated properly.

Stay tuned.


I ran across four interesting looking articles yesterday and bookmarked them to read. Here are the links.

How Biomimicry is Inspiring Human Innovation | Science & Nature | Smithsonian Magazine

“… [W]e human beings, who have been trying to make things for only the blink of an evolutionary eye, have a lot to learn from the long processes of natural selection, whether it’s how to make a wing more aerodynamic or a city more resilient or an electronic display more vibrant.”

Times Higher Education – Smoke and mirrors

“‘Agnotology’, the art of spreading doubt (as pioneered by Big Tobacco), distorts the scepticism of research to obscure the truth. Areas of academic life have been tainted by the practice, but some scholars are fighting back by showing the public how to spot such sleight of hand, reports Matthew Reisz”

The Millions : The Marquise Went out at Five O’clock: On Making Sentences Do Something

“When I find that a sentence I’m writing isn’t working, I don’t think about what I want that sentence to look like or to be; I don’t pull it from the page to weigh it in my hand; I don’t worry over its internal balance. I simply ask myself, ‘What do I need this sentence to do?'”

How Noam Chomsky’s world works | TLS

“Chomsky has achieved eminence in two very different fields, theoretical linguistics and political commentary. The “Chomsky problem” is that his approaches to these fields appear to contradict each other.”

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