Thursday, October 19, 2017

Father, Whate'er of Earthly Bliss

Praise for the Lord #148

Words: Anne Steele, 1760
Music: NAOMI, Johann Nageli, 1836, arr. by Lowell Mason, 1836

Anne Steele (1717-1778) was a leader among the first generation of English hymn writers to follow in the tradition begun by Isaac Watts, and was the most prominent woman hymn writer in the English language during her era (Watson). Julian rated her, in fact, "by far the most gifted Baptist hymn-writer of this period" (112). The landmark Ash & Evans Collection of Hymns Adapted to Public Worship (1769), also known as the "Bristol Hymnal," included 62 hymns by Steele out of 412 (%15), under her pen name "Theodosia." The only authors to exceed this number were Philip Doddridge (87) and of course Isaac Watts (122); no one else came even close. This was all the more unusual in an era when women did not yet commonly publish on religious topics (Aalders 23). Her continuing importance to English Baptists is reflected in the 27 hymns included in Gadsby's Hymns, a 19th-century collection that is still in use among some churches, and 13 hymns in the American Baptist hymnal published by Judson Press in 2012--an impressive feat after 250 years. Steele published the majority of her works in the 1760 collection Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional (vol. 1vol. 2), to which her friend and champion Caleb Evans added the posthumous Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse and Prose (Watson).

Despite the obvious importance of her contributions, Anne Steele's reputation as a hymnwriter was long a victim of her own admirers. Dr. Cynthia Aalders hits the nail right on the head in the introduction of her excellent study of Steele:
Prior to recent scholarly advancements in the study of hymnody, hymns were treated as a kind of folk genre; writing about hymns typically was limited to stories related to the circumstances or personalities behind the composition of particular hymns. For this reason, perhaps, the biographical stories typically relayed about Steele tend to capitalize on the dramatic, despite dubious archival evidence... It would seem that the approach most often taken toward the telling of Steele's life story has had more to do with hagiography than biography (8-9).
A typical summary of Steele's biography often includes her retiring nature, a weak physical condition that left her nearly an invalid, and the tragedy that changed her life when her fiance drowned on the morning of their wedding day. Not only are those items exaggerated (and the last one demonstrably false), they make her story into a sympathetic tale of the "brave little woman," as though her accomplishments were not sufficient on their own. Perhaps there was even some tendency to make her an oddity, a gifted recluse whose art grew out of intense suffering, instead of recognizing that she was simply a woman who wrote hymns better than most men of her generation. (The same could be said of much that is written about Fanny Crosby--she was not a remarkable songwriter "for a blind woman," she was a remarkable and influential songwriter, period.)

Michael Dixon and Hugh Steele-Smith made a study of Anne Steele's health on the basis of contemporary letters and diaries, concluding that she likely suffered from malaria, with other complications multiplying in her later years, that frequently left her weak and unable to be as active as she wished (353). But her health did not enter a serious decline until the last decade of her life (Aalders 107), well after the publication of her first volume of hymns. There was even greater exaggeration of the star-crossed lovers trope. The basic facts of the death of James Elcomb of Ringwood by drowning on May 23, 1737 are accurate as given by the earliest Baptist historians (Ivimey 4:312), but Dixon and Steele-Smith found a letter written to Anne's father by James Manfield, a family friend, reporting the event as follows:
I heartily wish the Subsequent part of my letter may not be an Unseasonable surprize to any of your Family and therefore tis with very great concern that I acquaint You that this Evening our dear friend Mr Elcomb was unfortunately drown'd in the River . . .
I submitt to your Prudence to Communicate this Unhappy Accident to the rest off your Family in a Suitable manner & not knowing how far he may have prevail'd in the Affections of Miss Steele I send my Man on purpose to prevent any Shock that may attend her hearing It in too sudden a manner (352). 
Elcomb therefore had at least paid court to Anne; but surely such a thoughtful friend of the family would have known had they actually been engaged to marry the next day! In fact there is no evidence that Anne Steele reciprocated Elcomb's feelings, and she later turned down at least two other offers of marriage (Aalders 21 n.51). (One of these, coincidentally, was from Benjamin Beddome, author of the hymn "God is the fountain whence.")

The reality of Anne Steele's life was far from that of the "wounded dove." She was the daughter of a well-to-do merchant in Broughton, Hampshire whose family connections included many prominent thinkers among the Dissenters, and as was the custom of the day for her social circle, Anne and her relations spent extended visits in their homes in neighboring towns (Aalders 10-13). Though she lost her mother at age 3, she had a reasonably good relationship with her stepmother, who supported her father's decision to let Anne go to school. In addition to a formal education, Anne Steele benefited from the wide range of intellectuals she encountered through visits and among her parents' guests (Aalders 18-20). And though she had great difficulties later in life and was never in robust health, most of the personal tragedies she encountered were after the bulk of her written work was done: her stepmother passed in 1760, months after the publication of her two-volume collection (Whelan), followed by her father in 1769 and her half-sister in 1772 (Aalders 12). Though these losses hit her hard, they could not in themselves have been an influence on the bulk of her hymns.

The hymn "Father, whate'er of earthly bliss" was adapted from the last three stanzas (out of ten) in Steele's poem titled "Desiring Resignation and Thankfulness," the first line of which is "When I survey life's varied scene." Its first appearance in its current form was in Augustus Toplady's Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Worship (1776) (Julian 1269). The famed opponent of John Wesley apparently did not find Steele's language sufficiently Calvinist for his taste, altering "Thy sovereign hand" to "Thy sovereign will" in the first stanza, and changing "let me live to Thee" to "make me live to Thee" at the end of the second stanza. Toplady also changed the second line of the third stanza from "My path of life attend" to the more sobering "My life and death attend," but perhaps that is attributable to his illness at the time (which did in fact lead to his death in 1778) (Bennett).

The omitted stanzas of Steel's poem follow:

When I survey life's varied scene,
Amid the darkest hours,
Sweet rays of comfort shine between,
And thorns are mix'd with flowers.

Lord, teach me to adore thy hand,
From whence my comforts flow;
And let me in this desert land
A glimpse of Canaan know.

Is health and ease my happy share?
O may I bless my God;
Thy kindness let my songs declare,
And spread thy praise abroad.

While such delightful gifts as these,
Are kindly dealt to me,
Be all my hours of health and ease
Devoted Lord to thee.

In griefs and pains thy sacred word,
(Dear solace of my soul!)
Celestial comforts can afford,
And all their power control.

When present sufferings pain my heart,
Or future terrors rise,
And light and hope almost depart
From these dejected eyes:

Thy powerful word supports my hope,
Sweet cordial of the mind!
And bears my fainting spirit up,
And bids me wait resign'd.

The preceding stanzas are the context, and the hymn is just the summary. In the first stanza, Steele proposes to examine both "thorns and flowers" in life, referencing that timeless irony so often made the subject of poetry and song. Both are part of every life, and the presence of one does not take away from the other. Neither does their presence in various combinations negate the fact that God remains sovereign. As Job said to his wife's remonstration against his continuing faith, "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10). Though his understanding of the situation was incomplete, his attitude was right. He had earlier said,
Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked shall I return.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.
(Job 1:21)
It was not the Lord who had taken everything away, but Job was correct in his long-range view: we bring nothing into this life, we are promised nothing while we are here, and we will take nothing away from it. Humanity has long asked, "Why is there so much evil?" but we may as well ask, "Why is there so much good?" Anne Steele reminds us to look at both sides.

The next stanza introduces the Biblical image of God's hand, providing for his people. Steele calls up the image of God's provision for His people in the Sinai wilderness, where they were became dependent on Him alone, traveling through a land that could not sustain such a multitude by natural means. As David said generations later, "You open your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16). Additionally, the "hand of God" suggests His authority, as in Psalm 123:2, where the servant of God waits on His good time.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
Till He has mercy upon us.
This image ties into the original wording of the first stanza of the hymn, "Thy sov'reign hand," which perhaps unfortunately was altered by Toplady.

The third and fourth stanzas of Steele's original poem promise gratitude for the good times. She would have us remember to be thankful, and "making the best use of the time" (Colossians 4:5). It is an odd but widely understood truth, that it is harder to be grateful during times of plenty than when we are in need. The fifth, sixth, and seventh stanzas examine the times of "griefs and pains," and the less specific but often more troubling "future terrors." How often is the fear of what may happen, worse than the bad things that actually do! In these Steele encourages us to find solace in Scripture, which gives "hope" in the midst of these troubles and can "all their powers control." Though we cannot live here without sorrows, we can find that help that Paul promised in Romans 15:4, "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." These stanzas not included in the modern hymn conclude with another reference to "waiting on the Lord," that hopeful and patient attitude that appears throughout the Psalms and Prophets, even in the darkest of circumstances.

Now to the hymn as we have it:

Stanza 1:
Father, whate'er of earthly bliss
Thy sov'reign will denies,
Accepted at Thy throne of grace,
Let this petition rise:

This stanza needs careful reading. The first two lines alone might cause us to think this is another of those hymns which expound on the author's suffering in life in a sort of self-congratulatory manner that implies, "Yes, Lord, I am suffering so much! But I'm not complaining." I confess that I have long overlooked the quality of this hymn by just such an assumption, and by not knowing more of Anne Steele's quality of hymn-writing. Having seen the stanzas that originally preceded this, however, it is obvious that self-pity or self-righteousness is the furthest thing from her intent. She has acknowledged that both good and ill are our lot in life, in different measures and at different times, and accepts it as God's will.

In this stanza, however, she poses a direct request. Regardless of whatever else she may be denied in this life ("whate'er of earthly bliss / Thy sov'reign will denies"), she asks that "this petition" (the requests detailed the final two stanzas) be "accepted at Thy throne of grace." She has narrowed down her list of wants to those things a Christian needs, and asks boldly for God's will to grant them. It recalls the beautiful statement of David in the 27th Psalm:
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
That will I seek after:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
And to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:4)
We find our wants and needs easily confused, especially in wealthy countries where even a middling income allows luxuries that would have made us fabulously rich a few generations ago. It is often necessary for circumstances to force us to rethink our needs and realize what is truly necessary. During the recent hurricane in southern Texas a picture made the rounds, showing a dog named Otis carrying a bag of dog food in his mouth. I believe I understand its popularity. Not only did people recognize Otis as a survivor, they also saw in him an illustration of the pragmatism that takes over in a time of need. Otis could only carry one thing in his mouth, and he chose wisely. He might have liked to carry his bed, or a favorite toy, but he would definitely need that bag of food. Human beings in similar circumstances found themselves equally concerned with the basics of food and shelter. At that moment, the rich and poor alike saw the value of a cup of hot soup and a warm bed.

There are needful things on the spiritual level as well, as necessary as food, clothing, and shelter. People seek them in many places, and find as many disappointments, but keep looking. The final two stanzas are Anne Steele's conclusions about what these spiritual needs truly are.

Stanza 2:
Give me a calm, a thankful heart,
From ev'ry murmur free;
The blessings of Thy grace impart,
And let me live to Thee.

The first line of this stanza could serve as a paraphrase for Paul's reminder to the Colossians, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15). For someone who saw so much conflict in his life, Paul spoke a great deal of his peace; yet following the Hebrew concept of shalom, a Christian's peace is not an absence of external conflict, but the presence of an internal wholeness and balance. It is not a passive state; we must pursue peace (Romans 14:19, 2 Timothy 2:22), and the writer of Hebrews even calls us (counter-intuitively!) to "strive for peace" (12:14). This active, deliberate quality is "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding," that "will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

Thankfulness is intertwined with this frame of mind in at least two ways; it is enabled by the peace of mind just described, and it reinforces it at the same time. It is all too easy--and I know this too well--to count our sorrows instead of our blessings. The losses and hurts of this life are real. But if we would not be consumed by them, we need to learn thankfulness for every good thing, great and small. Thankfulness for small things is the opposite of the "murmuring" described in the second line of the stanza. This word recalls the Exodus (two-thirds of the instances of "murmur" in the King James Version are found from Exodus through Deuteronomy, and many of the remaining third look back to that period). The open rebellions against Moses and Joshua were relatively few; it was the slow burn of low-key but persistent complaining that dragged things down. (Parents of small children will understand.)

What if we could do the same thing, but with thanksgiving? What if we could train ourselves to give thanks for every small blessing that comes our way? "Lord, thank you that I can get out of bed this morning" (as I listen to the various creaks and pops that accompany that action). "Lord, thank you for coffee" (this is not humorous). "Lord, thank you that I have a job to go to, and that I got here safely in that traffic." This won't solve all our problems, but perhaps a constant practice of giving thanks for the good things that happen day by day will keep us from dwelling on the disappointments.

Paul's ever-present wish for his readers was "Grace and peace," as expressed at the beginning of nearly every letter, and Steele counts the blessings of God's grace as needful things to the Christian. It may be no accident that Paul always speaks of grace first, and then peace, for there is no true peace before God's grace is received. God's grace first provided a means of salvation: "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). His grace continues to sustain the Christian, as the Hebrews writer says, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16). Paul shared this lesson that came from his thorn in the flesh, when God's answer to his pleas for help was "My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is the life--at peace, thankful, and dependent on God's grace day to day, that is "lived to the Lord" (Romans 14:8).

Stanza 3:
Let the sweet hope that Thou art mine
My life and death attend,
Thy presence through my journey shine,
And crown my journey's end.

The final thing that Steele's petition asks is for hope. Hope, of course, is an intangible. "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Romans 8:24-25). Just because it has not yet arrived, however, does not mean that it is of no present use. The present effect of hope is very real. In Paul's figure of the Christian armor, the "hope of salvation" is the helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:8). It is a necessary protection every day. Setting that hope as our focus is part of "preparing [our] minds for action, and being sober-minded" (1 Peter 1:13). It is a chief part of our motivation: "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:10).

It is also worth noting that the Christian's "hope" is a far cry from a mere "wish." We may hope in that sense for things in which we have little assurance, such as fair weather or a good seat on the bus. The Christian's hope is backed up by the unchanging character of God himself:
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:17-18).
Our "blessed hope" is in "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13), a return promised by Christ himself. It is a hope "laid up for you in heaven," in the keeping of One whose bank will never fail, with a written guarantee in "the Word of Truth" (Colossians 1:5). This is a hope that sustains through "life and death," as Steele says, providing the strength and energy for each passing day and "crowning the end" with serenity that can only be found in such assurance. No wonder it was so often part of Paul's prayers for the saints:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:16-18).
Cynthia Aalders has well noted the underlying strength and joy of Steele's hymn, in spite of the serious tone of the subject matter:
Despite her prolonged meditations on earthly suffering and human inarticulacy--despite her perception of God as ineffable--Steele's hymnody remains essentially hopeful, enabling her to make affirmations about God and the spiritual life . . . Steele's confidence that a sovereign God deals both joy and sorrow persuades her that the appropriate spiritual posture is consistently one of thankfulness and calm acceptance, whether life is characterized by "health and ease" or "griefs and pains" (Aalders 159, 161).
About the music:

Hans Georg Nägeli (1773–1836) was a German Swiss composer, music publisher, and music educator of considerable importance in his time. He was contemporary to Beethoven, and was the first publisher of Beethoven's op. 31 piano sonatas, groundbreaking works in that composer's famed middle period. Nägeli's compositions were primarily choral music and solo songs, prefiguring the rapid expansion of the latter genre in the hands of his younger contemporary Franz Schubert (Grove).

Nägeli was firm believer in "music for the masses," and did much to found the Liederkranz tradition ("singing circle," more or less) in Switzerland. These were men's (sometimes women's) amateur choirs, and in an age in which clubs and societies were very popular to begin with, they became a fixture of middle-class entertainment. The music was essentially popular but made occasional forays into the classical realm, and was a mixture of sacred and secular works. A somewhat similar tradition in the United States is the glee club and the barbershop chorus.

Lowell Mason, the great "improver of public taste" and founding father of American music education, took a great deal of inspiration from Nägeli's theories about music education. On his 1837 trip to Europe he carried a letter of introduction to the Swiss composer, and traveled to Zurich specifically to meet him. Unknown to Mason, Nägeli had passed away prior to his arrival. Mason's travel journal reports that he bought all of Nägeli's published works that he did not already possess (Mason, 9). He also met with Nägeli's widow and son to offer his condolences. The son gave Mason a copy of one of his own songs (Mason, 96), and Eva O'Meara's 1971 report on the Lowell Mason collection at Yale University indicates that Mason acquired over fifty titles in all from Nägeli's family (O'Meara, 200). It is possible that some of these materials worked their way into hymns that Mason attributed to Nägeli. Given the difficulty of unraveling Mason's attributions even with composers whose works are thoroughly studied (how exactly is ANTIOCH arranged from Handel?), this may remain unresolved.

The hymn tune which Mason named NAOMI first appeared in his periodical Occasional Psalm and Hymn Tunes, issue no. 3 (1836).

This is considerably altered in its next appearance, in Mason's Carmina Sacra, or, Boston Collection (Boston: Wilkins & Carter, 1841).

Given the degree of alteration from the first to the second arrangement--a complete change of the rhythmic foot in the opening line, and a revision of the cadence ending the second phrase--Mason certainly took a free hand in his arrangements.


Aalders, Cynthia Y. To Express the Ineffable: The Hymns and Spirituality of Anne SteeleStudies in Baptist History and Thought, no. 40 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2009).

Ivimey, Joseph. A History of the English Baptists, 4 volumes. London, 1811-1830.

Wilkinson, John. "The Farming of Hampshire." Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society volume 22 (1861), pages 239-371.

Dixon, Michael F. & Hugh F. Steele-Smith, "Anne Steele's Health: A Modern Diagnosis." Baptist Quarterly 32:7 (July 1988), 351-356.

Watson, J. R. "Steele, Anne (1717-1778)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition. Oxford University Press, 2005, viewed 12 May 2016.

Julian, John. A Dictionary of Hymnology, 2nd revised edition (1907). New York: Dover, 1957.

Benson, Louis FitzGerald. The English Hymn: Its Development and Use in Worship. New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915.

Whelan, Timothy. "Steele, Anne Cator--Biography." Nonconformist Women Writers, 1650-1850. Accessed 11 September 2017. 

Hadden, James Cuthbert. "Steele, Anne." Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1895-1900.,_Anne_(DNB00)

Bennett, Henry Leigh. "Toplady, Augustus." Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1895-1900.,_Augustus_Montague_(DNB00)

"Nägeli, Hans Georg." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 20 vols. London: MacMillan, 1980.

Mason, Lowell. A Yankee Musician in Europe: The 1837 Journals of Lowell Mason, ed. Michael Broyles. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1990.

O'Meara, Eva. "The Lowell Mason Library." Notes, Second Series, vol. 28, no. 2 (Dec., 1971), pp. 197-208.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Father, Hear Thy Children's Call

Praise for the Lord #147

Words: Thomas B. Pollock, 1870
Music: GOWER'S LITANY, John H. Gower, 1890

Thomas Benson Pollock (1839-1896) and his brother James Samuel Pollock (1834-1895) were well known in the Church of England of their day for their work at St. Alban the Martyr, Birmingham, ministering to the poor of this large industrial city. James was also a prolific writer on the doctrinal issues of the day (see a list of his works). Thomas, however, has had a more lasting popularity as an author through his contributions to the Anglican liturgy in the form of litanies.

The Pollock brothers grew up in the Isle of Man, sons of a prominent army officer from the Napoleonic wars (Anonymous 3). Both studied at Trinity College of Dublin, where Thomas received his B.A. degree in 1859 and his M.A. in 1863. He was also awarded with the Vice-Chancellor's Prize for English verse. Though Thomas had trained to become a doctor, eventually both brothers took Anglican orders (Anonymous 7-8). Within a few years the elder brother James was taken with the idea of a mission chapel for a largely unchurched area of sprawling Birmingham. Thomas came to join him "for a fortnight," as James once described it, "that has extended to twenty-five years" (Anonymous 11-12). Their anonymous biographer described them as follows:
Men of high intellect, culture, and refinement, more fitted, seemingly for the quiet of a cathedral close or a university quadrangle than for Mission Priests, must have found much that was uncongenial in the grimy slums of Vaughton's Hole. But none could have guessed it, for the heart of each was in S. Alban's (48).
The beginning of their work was not easy, for the Pollock brothers were very much part of the Oxford Movement, which aimed to reinvigorate the Church of England by reconnecting it to its pre-Reformation roots. Some in the community viewed this as returning to Roman Catholicism (which in the famous case of John Henry Newman actually happened). The Pollocks at first faced violent opposition to their more "high church" services in Birmingham, sometimes even to the point of riots, though the fervor eventually died down (Wakeling 261).

With his background in medicine, Thomas was kept busy tending to the sick, and championed sanitation and public health reform (Anonymous 50ff.). But writing seems to have been a compulsion for him, and his witty rhymed "prologues" reviewing the past year's doings in the parish were a highlight of the Christmas season (Anonymous 55). His brother James described Thomas as often walking around the house humming tunes, working out lyrics, to the point that the older brother teasingly warned the younger about the dangers of insanity brought on by compulsive rhyming (Anonymous 80). And if Thomas Pollock was not actually "the inventor of the metrical litany," as his anonymous biographer credited him (72), he was certainly a prominent modern exponent of the form; John Julian called him "a most successful writer," whose works "have greatly enriched modern hymn-books" (2:900). For Julian, this is high praise, and the hymnologist listed no fewer than eleven of Pollock's litanies in his article on the subject (1:677ff.). But Pollock described himself thus: "I am only a rhymer, and I do not profess to be more than a mechanical builder up of lines" (Anonymous 72). The present hymn and other selections provided by his biographer certainly call this humble assessment into question!

The word "litany" may be better known to the general public today through its appropriation as a term for a lengthy list of troubles or complaints, but the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek lexicon shows that λιτανεία (litaneíaLSJ) derives from the verb λιτανεύω (litaneúō), to make an entreaty (LSJ). Its ancient roots are in the very serious business of begging the favor of a ruler (Odyssey 7:145) or a god (Iliad 2:23:196). In the Koine Greek era, the term was used by the author of 2 Maccabees to describe the Jewish nation's prayers to God for deliverance from enemies (3:20, 10:16). The litany as a lengthy listing of supplications, however, is a Christian invention; it emerged in the first few centuries of the church in the form of a prayer in which the leader would make a number of requests of God, each of which was followed by a repeated phrase from the congregation affirming their agreement with what was said (Alexopoulos). (Mershman points to the 135th Psalm as a possible inspiration for this practice, with its retelling of God's deeds punctuated by the phrase "For His mercy endures forever.") An early example of the Christian litany is found in the "Clementine Liturgy" of the 4th-century Apostolic Constitutions, in which each line of a prayer by the deacon is followed by the congregational response, "Lord, have mercy" (Alexopoulos). Litanies came to be used in both the Orthodox and Roman liturgies for special feast days, and in this function became associated with processionals (Mershman).

With the separation of the Church of England during the reign of Henry VIII came an official English language liturgy, developed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1544. This included a litany drawn partly from existing English Catholic traditions, the Orthodox litanies, and from Martin Luther's modifications of Roman Catholic litany tradition. This litany was incorporated into the Book of Common Prayer (Wohlers). During the ebb and flow of "high church" and "low church" squabbles in the Church of England, the lengthy and elaborate litany was often omitted from services, but the Oxford Movement of the 19th century reinstated it a central feature, and in time even more litanies were added. Julian states:
The Metrical Litanies of the modern hymn-books began in 1854 with one or two in rhythmical prose on the Childhood and Passion of Jesus . . . By slow degrees these have been increased . . . until provision has been made for most of the Fasts and Festivals of the Church. . . . 
Amongst the the earliest writers of Metrical Litanies were Dr. F. G. Lee, Dr. Littledale, and G. Moultrie; and amongst the later Bp. H. E. Bickersteth, Sir H. W. Baker, and T. B. Pollock (1:677ff.) 
Pollock's litanies were published in two volumes: Metrical Litanies for Special Services and General Use (1870), and the Litany Appendix (1871). Five of these (and parts of another) were included in the 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, making up fully half of the "Litanies" section at the back of the hymnal. "Father, hear Thy children's call" appears as Hymn 465, the first of two Litanies of Penitence, and appears in three sections: 9 stanzas followed by an Amen, 6 stanzas followed by an Amen, and 9 more stanzas followed by an Amen. Though some of the more liturgical traditions have kept the entire litany in its three sections, over the years most hymnal editors have adapted it into a single hymn by selecting a group of stanzas. Looking over the instances available for view at, it is actually fairly difficult to find two hymnals that have the same set of stanzas.

Though it is often intriguing to examine omitted stanzas, in this case I will just cover those five stanzas that are used in Praise for the Lord (in the original litany: part 1, stanzas 2, 3, 7, and 8, and part 2, stanza 6). This reduced version was introduced to the churches of Christ, so far as I can discover, with Jorgenson's 1921 Great Songs of the Church, and remained in this form in the hymnals that adopted it next, such as Majestic Hymnal (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation, 1959) and Songs of the Church (West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing, 1971). From the latter, and through the various incarnations of Great Songs, it came down to Praise for the Lord in the 1990s, though it was omitted from Howard Publishing's Songs of Faith and Praise.

Stanza 1:
Father, hear Thy children’s call;
Humbly at Thy feet we fall,
Prodigals, confessing all:
We beseech Thee, hear us.

Pollock's litany begins with an appeal to the Heavenly Father from His children. It is well worth considering: we address the God who created the cosmos, who has existed from all eternity, as our Father. To address Him by this name is so frequently done, in fact, that there is a risk of forgetting the startling claim made by this simple word. It takes no thought at all to use this word of my earthly father; it is a simple statement of biology and relationship. Yet even on this human level we know it really is more complicated. I can also call Patrick Hamrick (1684-1784) my "father" in the sense of the origin of my family line in this hemisphere, but I have no personal relationship with that individual. His day-to-day impact on my life is limited to an often misspelled surname. The contrast with my actual father could not be greater, for (as we jokingly say) I have known him all my life. Though I do not resemble him much physically, I bear the stamp of his influence throughout my life, in my beliefs, character, attitudes, and interests. Being a father in that sense is much more than a biological or a legal relationship.

It was this human relationship that Jesus chose to describe our relationship to God. The Hebrew Testament does not often speak in this way, though the occasional passage does appear, as in Deuteronomy 32:6b, "Is not He your father, who created you, who made you and established you?" But in most of these instances, the Fatherhood of God is mentioned only briefly, and often in connection with other metaphors that portray the relationship in different lights (for example, the "Father" metaphor in Jeremiah 3:19 is followed immediately by a comparison to the husband/wife relationship in the following verse). By contrast, Jesus referred to God as "Father" in some 165 instances in the gospel accounts. Not only was this markedly different from the practice of the ancient Scriptures, it was out of the ordinary for the religious thought of the 1st century (Stein).

Though the Greek of the New Testament uses the generic term Pater for all but three of these instances, the Aramaic term Abba is retained in Jesus' impassioned prayer in Gethsemane (Mark 14:36), so we need not step into the academic mire of second-guessing Jesus' "original words" to say that this was the term He used in everyday speech. The equivalence of Abba and Pater is cemented in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6, where the Greek word is given as a gloss for the less familiar Aramaic. The implication of the term Abba has been discussed for years, of course, and doubtless most of us have heard it equated to the English "Daddy" or "Papa." Glenn Stanton's "Factchecker" article provides a good summary of the history of this line of thought, which was pretty thoroughly debunked among scholars of Biblical languages by the 1980s, though it has continued in popularity down to the present. The New Testament use of the Greek Pater instead of the informal Pappas also weighs heavily against this idea.

But if God is not described in Scripture as "Daddy," even by Jesus himself, "Father" carries more than enough weight! He is the Creator, of whom all people can say, "we are His offspring" (Acts 17:28), but He wants to be a Father to us in the fullest sense of that word. We cannot have the same relationship to Him that His Son Jesus has, because of the uniqueness of the "only begotten Son" (John 3:16, KJV), but "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Galatians 4:6). The word the Holy Spirit chose to explain this relationship to us was "adoption."
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. (Rom 8:15-17)
The Christians in Rome to whom Paul wrote would have understood this metaphor immediately. Among the noble and wealthy classes in Roman society, adoption was a means not only of providing a male heir if none were present, but also of building advantageous bonds between families. The most famous example, even today, is the great Augustus Caesar, who was adopted as a young man by Julius Caesar. Though born into a less prominent family, young Octavian was immediately recognized as the right-hand man of his adoptive father, and the intended heir of both his name and his empire. The right to call Caesar "father" was incredibly significant, and though the Caesar eventually came to be viewed as the "father to his people" in a national sense, no one could mistake the significance of the unique relationship this term denoted within the imperial family.

Consider then, by comparison, the honor and privilege that Christians enjoy to call the Creator of heaven and earth our Father! We can "with confidence draw near to the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16), because He is not only our Lord, He is our Father. We are assured that He will hear us, because we are not only His subjects and servants (also Scriptural metaphors!), we are His children. But will the Father hear when His children call? If you are a parent, you know the answer. The voice of your child, especially if raised in alarm, will cut through a noisy crowd in an instant. If my phone shows an incoming call from one of my children, it will be answered, even if I have to interrupt a conversation or leave in the middle of a meeting.

Our confidence in this relationship with God, however, should not lead us to carelessness, but to consideration. Even in my relationship with my earthly father, there are boundaries of respect. In my family we refer to him as "Dad," denoting a relationship that I have with no other person on earth. I did not call him by his first name when I was a child, or even to this day. (Actually I did once, in a moment of childish rebellion and curiosity, but I immediately regretted it.) Should we not show far greater respect in how we speak to the Creator who privileges us to call Him Father? Even Jesus, whose relationship to the Father is far beyond ours, sometimes addressed Him with additional honorifics: "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Luke 10:21, Matthew 11:25), "Holy Father" (John 17:11), and "Righteous Father" (John 17:25). He thanked the Father for hearing Him (John 11:41), and praised His glory (John 12:28, 17:1-5). The early Christians continued this attitude of reverence in prayer, calling on God as the "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them" (Acts 4:24).

Pollock's litany shows this reverence as well, with the addition of confession: "Humbly at Thy feet we fall / Prodigals confessing all." The attitude of humility comes not only from a recognition that God is the Creator and we are the creation, but also from acknowledging our moral bankruptcy before Him. We need the attitude of the prodigal son in Luke 15:21, who openly admitted that his sins had broken the relationship he once had with his father. He appealed not for recognition as a son, but simply for mercy; the father of course gave him both. David reminds us in Psalm 138:6, "For though the Lord is high, He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar." It is notable that this call to humility was spoken by a king! The truly great leaders of the Bible always showed this attitude in prayer. Nehemiah, in the prayer of supplication at the very beginning of the book bearing his name, began with fasting and prayer, confessing the sins of his nation in God's sight. King Hezekiah, when confronted with the army of Assyria at his gates, took their demand for surrender not to his generals, or to his political advisers, but to the house of the Lord, where he humbly appealed to the God "of all the kingdoms of the earth" (2 Kings 19:15-16). (Would that we had leaders in this nation, and all nations, who so humbled themselves before God!) It is the one who approaches God in humility--"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13)--who can anticipate being heard.

The refrain of Pollock's litany, "We beseech Thee, hear us," has a Scriptural parallel in Solomon's dedicatory prayer for the temple (1 Kings 8, 2 Chronicles 6), which continually returns to the petition, "Hear in heaven Your dwelling place." 2 Chronicles 7 recounts the Lord's answer to Solomon's prayer during a vision:
Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. (2 Chronicles 7:12-15)
How comforting to know that we as Christians are the living temple of God, both as individuals (1 Corinthians 6:19) and collectively (Ephesians 2:19-22), and that His "eyes will be open" and His "ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place" (2 Chronicles 7:15)!

Stanza 2:
Christ, beneath Thy cross we blame
All our life of sin and shame,
Penitent, we breathe Thy name:
We beseech Thee, hear us.

For some reason the opening lines of this stanza have long confused me, and perhaps that has been the case for the reader; if not, I ask indulgence while I explain. When Pollock says that "we blame / All our life of sin and shame," my immediate thought is, "For what?" The ordinary use of the word "blame" implies that someone is being held responsible for a negative result of his or her actions. Is the consequence of our actions in view in this stanza? I believe so, though it was not immediately apparent to me. In the first line Pollock establishes a setting that may give our answer: "beneath Thy cross."
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8).
It was I, and it was you, who deserved to be there instead. When we think of the awful treatment of One who even in His death prayed for forgiveness of His tormentors (Luke 23:34), the blame lies squarely on me and you--"All our life of sin and shame."

Another older meaning of "blame" may be in play as well. In early Modern English, it could also mean generally "to reprove" or "to bring into disrepute" (Oxford Universal Dictionary). We see this a few times in the King James Version, such as 2 Corinthians 6:3, "Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed." Here Pollock may also be saying that we come to the cross reproving and renouncing our "lives of sin and shame," for as he says in the following line, "Penitent, we breath Thy name." "Penitent," of course, is a cousin of the word "repent," meaning to be in a state of repentance--making the mental determination to change direction from the wrong to the right. The cross of Christ has that effect on those who will allow themselves to see it for what it really means. Jesus said, "When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32), and like magnetic north, the pull of the cross shows us when we have drifted off our course.

Stanza 3:
Sick, we come to Thee for cure,
Guilty, seek Thy mercy sure,
Evil, long to be made pure:
We beseech Thee, hear us.

Among the mighty works Jesus performed to confirm His words was the healing of the sick. "And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well" (Mark 6:56). This was motivated in great part, of course, by His character: "He had compassion on them and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14b). But as is so often the case with Jesus' actions, there is a deeper meaning. It was not His plan to heal all the sick among His people; in fact He pointed out that such miracles had never been intended in that manner: "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:27). The miracles of healing were acts of compassion and were immediate help to those who received them, but a greater lesson was to be learned. When the paralyzed man was lowered through the roof of a house before Jesus, His first action was not to heal the body, but the soul, saying "Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2). In a similar incident, Jesus told the man He healed by the pool of Siloam, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you" (John 5:14). To be lost spiritually is a far worse condition than any physical illness or injury, and Jesus came to heal something far more deadly and insidious than even the terrible contagion of leprosy. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).

Spiritual sickness is one thing, but Pollock goes further. Do we think of ourselves as "guilty?" Do we see "evil" in our lives? "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Romans 3:19). Lest we quibble with Paul about which "law" he means, verse 23 makes plain that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The corruption of evil has been with humanity since Genesis chapter 3, when the "knowledge of good and evil" became all too real through sin, and individually we have followed in the footsteps of our first ancestors. Even after forgiveness through Christ that takes away the guilt and sin, we still struggle to remain free it--at least Paul did, and I do not fancy we are any better.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing (Romans 7:18-19).
This is no excuse for remaining in sin, but a hard, painful look at the reality of our weakness. Yet as Pollock says, we "long to be made pure." We need to "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matthew 5:6), striving after it in spite of our weakness, and trusting in God to help us in our weakness to do His will. Pollock is not interested in beating us down, but rather in encouraging us to look realistically at our absolute dependence on Christ, rather than on our own strength.

Stanza 4:
Blind, we pray that we may see,
Bound, we pray to be made free,
Stained, we pray for sanctity:
We beseech Thee, hear us.

The first two lines of this stanza call to mind one of the most stunning events in the ministry of Jesus, when He was invited to give the Scripture reading at the synagogue in his home town, Nazareth:
And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
because He has anointed Me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:17-21, cf. Isaiah 61:1-2).
What miraculous work could have been more shocking than these words? This talk of liberty for the captive and oppressed was the language of revolution, as was prophesied by Simeon when Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple:
Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).
Some, of course, looked for an outward and physical revolution in that generation, but as Jesus told the local representative of secular authority, Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting" (John 18:36). This was never meant as an excuse to ignore unjust behavior by worldly authorities, of course, and down through the centuries the spirit of Christ has worked to end such oppression. But the revolution Jesus led begins on the inside--and as Paul could well attest, especially given his extensive experience with incarceration, the prisons built in our minds and hearts are often the hardest to escape:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25).
Jesus came to loose us from bondage that no earthly liberator can relieve. An impressive instance is seen in the man possessed by the legion of demons; we are told that this tortured individual "had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him" (Mark 5:4). Though he was able to free himself from physical restraints, he was just as much a prisoner of his situation as if he had been in the most secure dungeon in the world. After Jesus freed him, however, he was "sitting there, clothed and in his right mind" (Mark 5:15). Jesus delivers us from spiritual bondage first, giving us the freedom to be the true selves that God meant us to be.

The restoration of sight to the blind is one of the marks of the authenticity of Jesus' ministry, as He remarked in response to the question of His cousin John: "The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Matthew 11:5, cf. Isaiah 35:5-6). Several instances of this particular miracle are given in the gospel accounts, but the one that brings the matter into the sharpest focus is found in John chapter 9 with a man who had been blind from birth. As the narrative unfolds the question shifts from how a man was miraculously healed of physical blindness, to the much more difficult issue of the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees when the evidence of God's power was right in front of them. Showing once again that uncanny knack for asking rhetorical questions that pointed directly to their own problems, they asked, "Are we also blind?" To which Jesus replied, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains" (John 9:40-41). Problems of physical sight, of course, are always more obvious to us. I would never go out and drive my car without my glasses, because I know that I cannot navigate safely on the basis of large blurry shapes, which is how anything further than a block away appears. Sadly, it is all too easy to navigate spiritually with flawed vision, and the results are ultimately more disastrous.

Stanza 5:
By Thy love that bids Thee spare,
By the heav’n Thou dost prepare,
By Thy promises to prayer,
We beseech Thee, hear us.

After two stanzas in which he built up a series of adjectives describing our needy state--"Sick . . . Guilty . . . Evil" and "Blind . . . Bound . . . Stained"--Pollock turns in the closing stanza to three things that give us assurance that our prayers do not go unheeded. We are reminded first of the fact of God's love, demonstrated in His willingness to provide a means to spare us from our sins. A good definition of "spare" in this sense is "to abstain from visiting (a sin, etc.) with due punishment" (Oxford Universal Dictionary). Essential to the meaning is the concept of "due punishment;" if we say that we were "spared" from a destructive storm, of course we do not mean that we deserved to suffer from it, or that the storm took pity on us. Ironically, the "love that bade Him spare" sinful humanity, prevented Him from doing the same for His Son: "He ... did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all" (Romans 8:32a), though He alone among humanity did not deserve it.

The second fact to which our attention is drawn is the promise of a heavenly realm in preparation for the redeemed. In one of the darkest hours of His time with the apostles, Jesus promised them,
In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:2-3).
In another passage Jesus explained that this kingdom was "prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). We are assured that it is God's desire for us to be with Him; it is not a concession granted grudgingly, but was His plan all along. When sin seemed to wreck His plan, He went to unimaginable lengths to shows us a way back to Him. Will not our God, who "is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9b), who longs to bring us into His eternal home, hear the prayers of those who seek Him according to His will?

Finally, Pollock brings before us the promises that God has made regarding prayer itself. In the kingdoms of this world, it is typically the person with influence and connections whose wishes are heard by those in power. The Lord, however, promises to hear the prayers of His people on the basis of sincere and repentant hearts: "If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14). However lowly one may be in the eyes of the world, he or she can approach the King of Creation, for "He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer" (Psalm 102:17).

When Jesus came into the world to show us the Father, He spoke more expansively on God's promises in prayer:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11).
Not only do we have the ear of the Creator when we pray, but He is well disposed toward our requests and encourages us to ask Him for help. But what of the times when we have difficulty praying? I have known these times, and perhaps the reader has as well. Sometimes I am so shocked or bewildered by an event that I have no idea what to say. Sometimes I am struggling in my faith and do not "feel" as close to God as I would wish when I pray. The best advice I have heard on this is, pray anyway, the best you can. We can be greatly reassured by Paul's words in Romans 8:26, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." I do not understand exactly how this works, and I do not have to--I just gratefully accept it, because I know there have been many times when I needed this help.

The Lord promises in James 5:16 that "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." We typically think of this in terms changes in circumstances--a need fulfilled, a sickness relieved, a problem solved--but prayer also works powerfully on the heart of the one who prays. It humbles us and causes us to recognize God's mercy. It makes us think more clearly about what it is that we really need. It pokes and prods at our weaknesses and makes us realize how far we have to go. It encourages us by giving us a ready audience with a God who promises that things will get better if we will talk to Him. Pollock's litany, in bringing these things to mind, is an excellent preparation for corporate or individual prayer.

About the music:

John Henry Gower was born in Rugby, Warwickshire in 1855, and was assistant organist at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, from the tender age of 12. In 1874 he became organist and choirmaster of St. Paul's Church, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. In 1876 he completed the Bachelor of Music degree at Balliol College, Oxford, and served as the organist for Trent College in Derbyshire for the space of a little over 10 years (Humphreys & Evan 132). During this time he also served in the 12th Derbyshire Rifles, a volunteer regiment, where his status as a gentleman afforded him a commission as a 2nd lieutenant (United Service Magazine, March 1879, 404). He eventually rose to the rank of captain. In addition to his organ recitals, he was conductor of a local philharmonic society. He continued his studies at Oxford and received the Doctor of Music degree in 1883 (Humphreys & Evans 132). Porchea claims that Gower was the youngest ever to receive a doctorate in music at Oxford (124), but whether this is true or not, it was a remarkable achievement for such a young man.

The original St. John's in the Wilderness, destroyed by fire
in 1903. Photo from Jerome C. Smiley's History of Denver.
In 1887 Gower emigrated to the U.S., and settled in Denver, Colorado (Humphreys & Evans 132), where he married Jean Milne Taylor (Who's Who in America 584). He was one of the earliest organists at St. John's in the Wilderness in its old building on Welton Street (Williams 81), but for reasons yet undiscovered was replaced a year or so later by Henry Houseley (Porchea 84). Porchea's account of the music at St. John's during those years suggests that the rough-and-tumble Western city was a difficult adjustment for the English musicians who were imported by the cathedral's Dean (89ff.). In the 1891 Denver City Directory Gower was listed in a real estate partnership (593, 1677), though he was still involved in the music scene as conductor of the new Denver Select Choir (Porchea 57). From time to time he was looking for a church position (The Churchman (New York City) 6 May 1893, 620), and his biography in Who's Who in America indicates that he served as organist at the Chapel of the Epiphany in Chicago, as well as the Central Presbyterian Church in Denver (584). By the turn of the century the Gowers were living part of the time in England, and part of the time in Denver, where Gower had turned his hand to the booming mining business as well (Who's Who in the World 528). Gower's bitterness at his perceived treatment in Denver is evident in a wittily acerbic letter to the editor of the Musical News of London, 26 May, 1900:
SIR.-- I guess I'll sell my Mus. Doc. racket. Can you do anything with it? In the Western States they don't understand it, and after the daily papers at Denver got it so mixed up, as to style me "J. H. Gower Musk Ox," and J. H. Gower assisted by Miss Doe, I calculated it about time to "chuck" the business. So I took to digging.
Whatever his feelings about Denver, he seems to have settled down there in his older years. He is listed in the 1910 and 1920 U.S. censuses as teaching music from his home. He passed from this life 30 July 1922 in Denver, and is buried in the Fairmount Cemetery (Find-a-grave).

Gower's range of compositions was fairly extensive, including oratorios, cantatas, and anthems, of course, but also secular works for chamber ensembles and even an opera, intriguingly titled The Man from Mars. Some of his contributions to the world of hymn tunes are found in The Evening Service Book (Denver: Denver Music Publishing Co., 1891), of which he was the music editor, including MEDITATION (one of the common tunes for "There is a green hill far away") and the setting of "Father, hear Thy children's call" that came to be known as GOWER'S LITANY.

The tune is very singable and relatively simple, building up in a rising sequence through the first three phrases, the last of which reaches the peak of the melody, then relaxing in the refrain. This is a typical form for hymn tunes, of course, but in this case has the added value of matching the rhetorical structure of Pollock's stanzas. The harmony is considerably more complex, and is an excellent example of Romantic-era harmony applied to the miniature scale of the hymn tune.

The first chromatic chords arrive in the 3rd beat of the 3rd measure, a D-sharp fully diminished 7th chord that serves merely as decoration (not as a leading-tone structure to the following chord), but also sets up the harmonically ambiguous slide into the 4th beat by the bass and alto. The arrival of the A7 chord on the 4th beat is then subverted from its likely goal in the 4th measure (the tonic, D major), by yet another chromatic slide in the bass and alto voices, now introducing an E-sharp fully diminished 7th. This diminished 7th chord, however, is functional, serving as leading tone to the F-sharp minor chord at the end of the phrase (measure 4, beat 3). The series of events manages to produce a cadence in F-sharp minor, a related but rather unexpected key, evidence of the strength of good part-writing.

The next patch of chromaticism begins on the 4th beat of the 5th measure, creating a series of secondary dominants (F#maj7 to Bmaj to Emaj) leading toward the final phrase. There is one standout moment, however, when the tenor voice hits a C-natural in beat 3, measure 6; it creates an F-sharp diminished triad for a moment, before the upper voices resolve down into the E major chord, and gives the harmony a touch of pathos by referring to the parallel key of D minor. This prominent feature in the tenor line seems to be an echo of the peak in the melody at the same spot in the preceding measure.

The part-writing is also worth noting, because the style varies so widely between the two halves of the tune. In the first half the alto, tenor, and bass are practically static, moving primarily by step and often in parallel with the melody. (This is especially noticeable in the original version of the tune, in which the bass stays on an E throughout the 2nd measure. Later versions would have the bass leap down to A, the root of the chord, perhaps in deference to the music theory maxim not to leave a second-inversion chord hanging as Gower does. In his defense, keeping the bass on E makes the bass part much more singable, and the uneasiness of the harmony is in keeping with the chromaticism of the later part of the phrase.) In the second half of the tune the harmony is more straightforward, with more root position chords (and thus more leaps in the bass). It is risky to make this kind of interpretation of the composer's intent, but: the general sense of the tune seems to be a pensive, hesitant beginning, building in tension and yet also in confidence toward the refrain: "We beseech Thee, hear us."


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Stein, Robert H. "Fatherhood of God." Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1997.

Stanton, Glenn T. "Factchecker: Does Abba mean Daddy?" The Gospel Coalition, 2013.

The Oxford Universal Dictionary on Historical Principles, 3rd edition revised. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Father, We Thank Thee for the Night

Praise for the Lord #144

Words: Rebecca Weston, ca.1875?
Music: Jorgenson's Great Songs of the Church, 1930

This little morning prayer-hymn first appeared in hymnals in the 1890s, and has maintained a presence even into the present century ( Though originally conceived as a children's song and published primarily in Sunday school hymnals, its simple but earnest language is suitable for adults as well, and deserves to be better known. It came into use among the churches of Christ by way of Elmer Jorgenson's Great Songs of the Church, first appearing (to the best of my knowledge) in the 1930 edition. From this source, no doubt, it came into other hymnals such as Our Leader (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation, 1941) and L. O. Sanderson's Christian Hymns III (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1966), the Howard Publishing hymnals, and others. But however popular it became in the churches, "Father, we thank Thee" did not begin there--it started in the schoolroom. The origin of this hymn reaches back to the 1870s and an interesting chapter of United States history, especially as it pertains to children: the flowering of the Kindergarten movement.

Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel (1782-1852), the founder of the movement, was the son of a Lutheran minister in Germany. An intellectual jack-of-all-trades, he eventually was drawn to teaching and studied under the Swiss education reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. Generations before "learning styles" entered the popular vernacular, these men recognized the value in learning through all the different senses, using play, investigation, songs, and games, in addition to the traditional tools of teaching. But after establishing his own school, Fröbel felt something was missing from the philosophy of his mentor. His evolving concept of the Kindergarten became rooted in the principle that God is the source of knowledge, and therefore, that true education should lead to God (Muelle 87-88). The spread of the Kindergarten to the United States came through the misfortune of the 1848 revolution in Germany, which prompted a tide of German immigration to the farming country of the Midwestern U.S. The first American Kindergarten was actually taught in German, by a Fröbel-trained teacher in Watertown, Wisconsin, Margarethe Schurz. This school was in existence five years before Elizabeth Peabody opened the first English-language Kindergarten in Boston in 1860. A chance meeting between the two teachers convinced Peabody to travel to Germany to study Fröbel's methods first-hand, and as the Kindergarten movement spread in the English-speaking urban centers, it retained a firm connection with its German founder (Muelle 88).

A critical point to observe in the early spread of Kindergarten in the United States was its close association with the needs of a new demographic, the urban working poor. Industrialization and immigration in the late 1800s caused the cities to swell with workers, and the uncertainties of life away from the farm made it more likely for mothers and older children to enter the workforce. Kindergarten was promoted as a way to give the younger children not only a boost in their education, but also a place to develop good moral habits and citizenship. In the early 1900s it became more aligned with emerging American education philosophies which tended toward a more secular and pragmatic approach, but in its early decades Kindergarten was seen as a spiritual as well as an intellectual education (Muelle 88-89). It is hardly surprising that a children's hymn emerged from this milieu, which paralleled the temperance movement, the Young Men's Christian Association, and other "social gospel" efforts.

Rebecca Jane Weston, who would become a pioneer in the Kindergarten movement in the U.S., was born on 31 May 1835 in Reading, Massachusetts, to James B. Weston and Rebecca (Baldwin) Weston (Massachusetts deaths). An 1885 Boston city directory gives her name as "R. Jennie Weston," and she is once referred to as "Jane Weston" (Peabody "Miss Garland's" 21). Her father James Weston of Reading was a clock dealer and maker (cf. 1850/51 city directory 324, 1850 census), a business inherited by Rebecca's brothers (1870 census). The Westons moved to Boston in 1836-37 (1837 city directory 389), so Rebecca was essentially raised in the city. She attended the Johnson Grammar School, and in 1850, at age 15, she was awarded a City Medal for scholarship (Annual report 1857 222). From 1853-1855 she attended Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary, though she does not appear to have graduated (Mount Holyoke catalogues).

Lucy H. Symonds, a fellow schoolteacher and later an associate in Kindergarten work, said that Weston taught in the Boston schools for eighteen years (M.L.G. 321). If she began her full-time Kindergarten work in 1873 ("Notes and discussions" 146), she must have begun teaching around 1855 when she was 20 years old. The earliest documentation I can find shows that she taught in the Newbern Place primary school in 1858 (Rules of the School Committee 1858 11), where she remained until 1863, when she moved to the Warren Street primary school (street name later changed to Warrenton) (Annual report 1863 92). She remained there until 1870, when she moved to the Tennyson Street primary school (later named the Starr King school after the noted Unitarian minister). At Tennyson Street she taught alongside Lucy H. Symonds (Annual report 1870 403), remaining there through 1872 (Annual report 1872 405). Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894), the founder of English-language Kindergarten in the U.S., reckoned Weston and Symonds among "the very most valued of the primary-school teachers of Boston" (Peabody 11).

Chestnut Street, Boston, circa 1869.
Photographer unknown. From Wikimedia Commons.
Over the years Weston spent in the public schools, she became impressed by the impact of Kindergartens on the students she received from such programs. In 1872-1873 she made a life-changing choice--she left public school teaching and undertook intensive study of Kindergarten teaching under Mary Garland ("Notes and discussions" 146). Mary J. Garland (1834-1901) was a disciple of Matilda Kriege, the German founder of the first Kindergarten teacher training program in the U.S., and was also associated with such notables as Elizabeth Peabody and Mary (Mrs. Horace) Mann ("In memoriam" 199-200). (Garland's school later evolved into the Garland Junior College for women, which closed in 1976.) Upon Weston's graduation she became Garland's partner in the Kindergarten school and teacher training program ("Notes and discussions" 146), and around 1875, Rebecca moved into quarters at Garland's school on Chestnut street ("Weston, 1875"). The two women, fast friends and partners in a cause, lived and worked together for the remainder of Weston's life. The impact of their partnership was such that a eulogist of Garland described them as "a double star in the educational firmament" (Wiltse 186). Weston passed away on 7 August 1895 in Concord, Massachusetts, where she and Garland were spending the summer vacation ("Notes and discussions" 146).

Weston's interest in music education was evident early in her career. Luther W. Mason, speaking at her memorial service, remembered that during his time as music supervisor in the Boston schools, Weston was one of the strongest advocates for his efforts to introduce systematic music instruction in the primary schools (M.L.G. 321). Elizabeth Peabody's firsthand description of the graduation exercises of Garland's first class of Kindergarten teachers, which included Weston and her friend Lucy Symonds, notes that "The young ladies began with singing a hymn, which one of them had composed" (Peabody "Exhibition" 10). (Was it Rebecca?) They also read their graduation essays; Weston's was "Froebel as builder," reprinted by Peabody as the lead article in Kindergartner Messenger No. 6 (October 1873). Music was an increasingly important part of Kindergarten work in general and of Weston's contributions to its development. Songs and games for little ones (Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1887), a pioneering music book for Kindergartens, includes this statement in the preface of the 3rd edition:
Kindergartners* will find that songs and games which have hitherto been obtainable only in manuscript form, many of them kindly supplied to us by Miss GARLAND and Miss WESTON, are here newly arranged and harmonized.
     *That is, Kindergarten teachers, or "child-gardeners," in the German sense of "Gartner"--DRH.
The first song in this collection is Weston's "Father, we thank Thee." It is uncertain how many others she wrote, but in the Garland Junior College records curated by the archives of Simmons College, there is a group of notebooks described as "Songs for Kindergartens" (no author indicated), alongside a notebook containing other teaching materials by Rebecca Weston (Garland Junior College records). I am much obliged to archivist Jason Wood for searching this material on my behalf. Unfortunately it yielded no references to "Father we thank Thee," but it does provide evidence of songwriting activity in the Garland & Weston school.

There is little to no question of Weston's authorship of the text of "Father, we thank Thee." Though it often appeared without attribution, as popular songs learned by rote will do, I have found no competing claims, and those who knew Weston best testify that she wrote the song for the use of her Kindergarten classes taught in Garland's school on Chestnut Street (M.L.G. 321). The first appearance of "Father, we thank Thee" in a songbook is in the teacher's manual for the 1885 Tonic sol-fa music course for schools by Daniel Batcheller and Thomas Charmbury (Batcheller & Charmbury 18), but the text was definitely known at least a few years earlier, and most likely was written during the 1870s. It is quoted, oddly enough, in a novel by Kate Douglas (Smith) Wiggin, The story of Patsy (Wiggin 27), copyrighted 1882. The song plays out over the death scene of the woebegone titular protagonist, for whom the Kindergarten was one of the few joys of life. Though Weston is not credited, naturally enough, the story nonetheless shows the currency of this hymn in the Kindergarten curriculum:
And in a voice choked with tears, as Jim came in the door, and lifted Patsy in his arms, I sang the hymn that he had sung, with folded hands and reverent mien, every morning of his life in the Kindergarten (Wiggin 26).
(In her defense, it was her first novel, and Wiggin would more than redeem herself with her 1903 classic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.) Wiggin's knowledge of the hymn at such an early date might have come from her period of study with Elizabeth Peabody in 1880 ("Kate Douglas Wiggin"), but it also suggests that the hymn had already become quite familiar, perhaps even at a national level. An even earlier reference to this hymn comes from Weston's associate Lucy Wheelock, who remembered hearing a Kindergarten class sing at Chauncy Hall School while she herself was a student there. It was a moment that made her determined to pursue a career in early childhood education herself (Wheelock 26). Wheelock attended Chauncy Hall during 1875 (My life 10), so if her memory some fifty years later was accurate, she heard Weston's song in use in that year.

One final note on Rebecca Weston: like many, many people who have chosen early childhood education as a career (including my grandfather, my mother, and two of my sisters), she was acting out her Christian faith. Alice H. Putnam, yet another education luminary from Weston's circle, said in her memory, "I never met her without being deeply impressed with the genuineness of her Christian character" ("Notes and discussions" 147). In a meeting of the Eastern Kindergarten Association where Weston's life and work were honored, noted minister and author Edward Everett Hale said that Weston was a teacher whose philosophy was "founded on three eternities--faith, hope and love. Religion was central in her life, she lived to bring in the kingdom of God" (M.L.G. 321-322).

Bookplate from the library dedicated in
Weston's memory at the (original) Peabody
House, an innovative center for community
education. Reprinted in the Journal of the
Ex Libris Society
 XIV (1904), page 93.

"Father, we thank Thee for the night" is in that unfortunately small class of really great children's hymns. (All the more reason to revive the use of the good ones, with or without the King James English). It is inherently difficult to wrap a profound truth in simple vocabulary, and much easier to write something catchy but shallow. Add to that the struggle of the adult to think in terms that relate to a child, and it is remarkably challenging. But Jesus told us: "Of such are the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14). It is well worth the while of adults to consider what aspects of childhood the Savior meant by that, and this hymn touches on some of them very well.

Stanza 1:
Father, we thank Thee for the night,
And for the pleasant morning light;
For rest and food and loving care,
And all that makes the day so fair.

Thanks are given first of all for the night, usually not the child's favorite time of day. But it is quickly paired with thanksgiving for rest in the third line, gently reminding the child (and us) that we need rest, and that it is a blessing. "He gives to His beloved sleep," Psalm 127:2 tells us, and "Sweet is the sleep of a laborer" (Ecclesiastes 5:12). This is no news, of course, to those of us who wake up in the middle of the night and want nothing more than to go back to sleep! But during those times I try to remind myself how blessed I am that at least I have a bed to lie in, and peaceful nights without fear. I have known people who slept on the floor on the weekends to avoid the stray bullets passing through their neighborhoods, and too many people around the world fear a knock on the door in the night from criminal gangs (official or otherwise). My childhood nighttime fears (Boggy Creek Monster stalking the streets of Tulsa, the headless motorcyclist from Kolchak: the Night Stalker) were fantasy--would that this were true for every child! Let us appreciate the blessing of rest and peace.

The "pleasant morning light" is something so fundamental to human understanding as to need no explanation. Scripture is full of allusions to this fact. The distressed soul in Psalm 130:6 "waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning," reflecting the near-universal experience of a tense night of watching in anxiety that will only be relieved by the arrival of day. Whether it is logical or not, things often do seem better by the light of day than by the dark of night. Scripture also tells us that "joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5b), and in the promise of a new day with all its potential yet untold, perhaps there is a dim echo of that creative excitement that followed the first time this occurred: "And there was evening and morning, the first day" (Genesis 1:5). (I cannot help but think of my firstborn, aged two, who announced to us one morning upon arising, "I have one hundred ideas today!") But over the years, the routine of work and the unforgiving din of the alarm clock can dull our sense of wonder at this event called "morning." When my feet hit the floor in the morning (well before the morning light actually), I try to remember to make my first thought of this--"Lord, thank You for this new day." I have often heard the sentiment, but do not know the author: "God woke you up this morning, He still has something for you to do." A variation of the proverb says, "God woke you up this morning, He is giving you another chance to get it right." No matter what the challenges we face, every day is another chance to do better; every day is another chance to glorify God. "Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul" (Psalm 143:8).

"Rest and food and loving care" are further aspects of the child's simple world that are good for adults to consider carefully. My children know this routine by heart, having heard it many times--if you have clothes on your back, food on your table, and a roof over your head, you have everything you really need, and are better off than many, many people in this world. The small child who has not yet acquired the adult qualities of avarice and self-importance is generally satisfied with simple food, comfortable clothes, and a warm blanket to sleep under. It does not occur to the child to wish for more, when there is enough. The "loving care" of a trusted guardian is the final thing needed. I remember one night distinctly when my childhood nightmares were getting the best of me, and every shadow was a monster waiting to catch me, until I made the long, dark trek to my parents room and knocked on the door. On that night, at least, my father sat up in a chair in my room until I fell asleep. I woke up later, worried, fully expecting to be alone again--then saw that he was still there, asleep in that uncomfortable chair. If he was there, what did I have to worry about? If only we could keep that childlike trust in our heavenly Father! He "will neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4). Peter encourages us to "cast all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7.

Stanza 2:
Help us to do the things we should,
To be to others kind and good;
In all we do in work or play,
To grow more loving every day.

The second stanza of Weston's morning hymn turns from thanksgiving to supplication, and it is the best kind of supplication--asking God's help to live our lives in a manner pleasing to Him. "Help us to do the things we should" reminds us that sin is not just a matter of wrong done, but of good neglected. The familiar old lines from the General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer put it well: "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done." One can avoid active evildoing all day long, yet fail to be "kind and good." One proof of kindness, as it is described in Scripture, is to whom it is demonstrated. Jesus described the Father in Luke 6:35 as "kind to the ungrateful and the evil." Our treatment of those who mistreat us shows the active presence of this godly kindness in our lives, because as Jesus points out, "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them" (Luke 6:32). Ephesians 4:32 also associates kindness with the ability to rise above the other person's behavior: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." It is easy to be kind to the coworker whose company I enjoy, or the cashier in the store who is always friendly. It is much harder to go out of my way to be kind to the difficult and critical coworker, or to the cashier who is always surly.

Weston concludes, naturally enough for a Kindergarten teacher, with the wish for continued growth. Among the metaphors Scripture uses to describe the Christian life (a walk, a race, a fight) one of the most prominent is the metaphor of biological growth. Some of Christ's most memorable parables--the Sower and the Soils, the Mustard Seed, the Wheat and the Tares--set the precedent for this imagery, where the gospel seed unfolds progressively in the life of a Christian. The body of Christians as a whole is compared to a growing physical body, differentiated yet united:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:15-16).
We recognize the necessity of growth and progress in the physical realm. Though we might wish in a way that our children could stay little just a while longer, in reality, we are concerned (often unreasonably so!) if they do not reach the expected milestones of physical and mental development on schedule. If we plant fruit trees, but get little or no fruit at the expected times, we examine the health of the trees and the soil, and try to make changes to increase the yield. Would that there were equal concern for spiritual growth! In the beginning of John's third epistle, he wishes for Gaius: "that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul" (3 John 2). I wonder sometimes how I would look, if my physical health actually reflected my spiritual health? God help us to pay closer attention to our spiritual growth, which is eternal, so that we can say with Paul, "Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16).

It is worth noting in conclusion that Weston placed the desired growth of her Kindergarten pupils in the context of "work and play." Part of the lasting contribution of Fröbel and the Kindergarten movement was the understanding that learning takes place, not only through the passive reception of knowledge via teacher-student instruction, but also through the many different activities of life in which that knowledge is put into practice. In the same way, spiritual growth occurs not only through reception of knowledge--though that is absolutely necessary--but also through actively applying that knowledge in every aspect of life. Colossians 3:17 tells us, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Often the discussion of this verse is focused on the authority for practices in the Lord's church, and certainly the question is just as relevant today as ever--"By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" (Matthew 21:23); "By what power or by what name did you do this?" (Acts 4:7). But the context of the verse within the chapter, which addresses personal morality and interpersonal relations, shows that it applies equally to the individual Christian in every other aspect of life. Yes, the worship of the church must be done "in the name of the Lord," under His authority as delegated through His inspired writers; but so also must my business practices. The organization of the church must be "in the name of the Lord," and so also must the organization of my time and where I spend it.

Obviously if I am doing something in my personal life that is overtly contrary to the Lord's will, I cannot do it "in the name of the Lord," living under His authority. But even those things that are morally neutral need to be done in a way that respects the Lord's authority over my life. I was amused recently to read in the compendium Queries and Answers (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1911), drawn from the editorial pages of the Gospel Advocate from more than a century ago, an article by Elisha G. Sewell in response to an earnest young Christian's question: Was it appropriate to join in the game (relatively new at that time) called "base ball?" Sewell's answer is just as timely today, and applies to pastimes never imagined in his day (video games, Facebook, etc.). All other things being equal, Sewell opined that playing a sport would be a better use of leisure time than would idleness. But would the time spent in baseball keep him from worship, or from other Christian activities? Would his participation, and the people he would associate with, help or hurt his reputation? Would he be more likely to influence the ungodly through this association, or the other way around? These questions are still important, as we strive to "take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5), submitting to His authority over our whole lives, in "work and play" as well as in worship.

About the music:

The page for "Father, we thank Thee" shows that the tune by Daniel Batchellor that first appeared with this text in 1885 has remained the most widely used. Daniel Batchellor (1845-ca. 1928), a Englishman, brought the British "tonic sol-fa" or Curwen system to the U.S. with the zeal of a religious reformer, and though he was ultimately unsuccessful in making this music-reading system a permanent part of American life, he was a strikingly innovative leader in early childhood music education (Southcott 60ff.). From what I have gathered, tonic sol-fa (the musical notation method, not the singing group) is to the U.K. what shape-notes are to the U.S., in the sense that it was invented to teach music reading as quickly as possible to those without any formal musical education, using a method of notation that signifies scale steps rather than letter-name pitches.

from Manual for teachers, and rote songs, to accompany the
Tonic sol-fa music course for schools

Below is the common four-part setting, in traditional notation:

from Childhood Songs, ed. Mabel Rowland, 1898

The upward leaps of a 6th in the opening phrase and third phrase, and the busy final phrase, make this tune a little awkward to sing, though it is pretty enough.

A few hymnals have paired "Father, we thank Thee for the night" with the tune HURSLEY (known to churches of Christ in the U.S. with the text "Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear"), which is a charming fit. There is another setting of this text with music by Grietje Terburg Rowley (b. 1927), found in some Latter Day Saints hymnals, with very interesting harmony. There is also a setting of this text by Kate Douglas Wiggin from her Kindergarten Chimes (1885), but it borrows a little too obviously from ST. GEORGE'S WINDSOR ("Come, ye thankful people, come").

Jorgenson's setting of this text first appeared in the 1930 edition of Great Songs of the Church. A recording of "Father, we thank Thee" sung to this tune was recorded by the Harding University Concert Choir on their album Harding 100 Hymns. An MP3 version is available here.

Genealogical References for Rebecca J. Weston

Notice of Death, Obituaries:

"Rebecca J. Weston, 07 Aug 1895." Massachusetts deaths, 1841-1915. FamilySearch (2015), citing Concord, Massachusetts v. 455, p. 172, State Archives, Boston, FHL microfilm 961,516.

"Notes and discussions." Kindergarten Magazine (Chicago) VIII/2 (October 1895), 146-147.

M. L. G. "In memory of of Miss Weston." Kindergarten News (Springfield, Mass.) V/9 (November 1895), 320-322.

Census data:

"James Weston." U.S. Census, 1850. FamilySearch (2015), citing NARA microfilm M432, p. 612, household 45 (Massachusetts, Suffolk, Boston, Ward 10).

"James Weston." Massachusetts State Census, 1855. FamilySearch (2015), citing State Archives, Boston, FHL microfilm 953,959, Suffolk County, Boston, Ward 8, household 70.

"James Weston." U.S. Census, 1860. FamilySearch (2015), citing NARA microfilm M653, p. 210, household 1627 (Massachusetts, Suffolk, Boston, Ward 10). 

"Rebecca J. Weston." Massachusetts State Census, 1865. FamilySearch (2015), citing State Archives, Boston, FHL microfilm 954,377, Suffolk County, Boston, Ward 10, household 2259.

"Rebecca J. Weston." U.S. Census, 1870. FamilySearch (2015), citing NARA microfilm M593, p. 66, household 480 (Massachusetts, Suffolk, Boston, Ward 8).

City directories:

1837, Stimpson's Boston directory. Boston: Stimpson & Clapp, 1837. Digital version from the Collection of the Boston Athenaeum.

1850-1851, The directory of the city of Boston. Boston: George Adams, 1850. Digital version from the Collection of the Boston Athenaeum.

"Weston, 1875." Boston streets: mapping directory data. Tufts University (2015), citing the Boston directory (Sampson, Davenport & Co., 1875)

"Weston, 1885." Boston streets: mapping directory data. Tufts University (2015), citing the Boston directory (Sampson, Murdock & Co., 1885).

Boston Schools documents:

Annual report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1857. Boston: Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 1858.

Rules of the School Committee and regulations of the Public Schools of the City of Boston 1858. Boston: Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 1858.

Annual report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1863. Boston: J. E. Farwell & Co., 1863.

Annual report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1869. Boston: Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 1870.

Annual report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1870. Boston: Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 1871.

Annual report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1871. Boston: Rockwell & Churchill, 1872.

Annual report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1872. Boston: Rockwell & Churchill, 1873.

Annual catalogues of the teachers and pupils of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary [1837-1847, 1847-1857]. [South Hadley, Mass.?]: published for the Memorandum Society, 1847-1857.

Other References

Muelle, Christina More. The history of Kindergarten: from Germany to the United States. South Florida Education Research Conference, 2015. Florida International University Digital Commons.

"In memoriam : death of friends of the Kindergarten." Seventieth annual report of the Trustees of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind, for the year ending August 31, 1901, 190-216.

Wiltse, Sara E., "Boston memorial service to Mary J. Garland." Kindergarten Magazine XIV/3 (November 1901), 185-187.

Peabody, Elizabeth Palmer. "Exhibition of the trained Kindergartners instructed by Miss Garland, in the Boston class of 1872-3." Kindergarten Messenger I/2 (June 1873), 9-14.

Peabody, Elizabeth Palmer. "Miss Garland's Kindergarten training class of 1873-74." Kindergarten Messenger II/6 (June 1874), 20-22.

Songs and games for little ones, prepared by Gertrude Walker and Harriet S. Jenks, 3rd edition. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1887.

"Guide to the Garland Junior College records, 1872-1984," Simmons College Archives.

Batcheller, Daniel, and Thomas Charmbury, editors. Manual for teachers, and rote songs, to accompany the Tonic sol-fa music reader for schools. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1885.;view=1up;seq=24

Smith, Kate Douglas. The story of Patsy. San Francisco: C. A. Murdock, 1883.

"Kate Douglas Wiggin." Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Wheelock, Lucy. "Miss Peabody as I knew her." Pioneers of the Kindergarten in America, edited by the Committe of Nineteen of the International Kindergarten Association. New York: Century Co., 1924, 26-38.

Wheelock, Lucy. My life story (unpublished manuscript, 1940s). Wheelock College Library Archives.

Southcott, Jane. "Daniel Batchellor and the American tonic sol-fa movement." Journal of Research in Music Education 43/1 (Spring 1995), 60-83.