We Are Light

At West Hill, one of our main “metaphors” is that of light. During our Longest Night service in December, an annual celebration that takes place on the night of the Winter Solstice and has allowed us to discontinue Christmas services, each person in attendance is given a candlewick bracelet and reminded that they are the light of the world. The service not only recognizes the depths of darkness but reminds us that we are light, and so are each responsible for providing light in this challenging world. Many members, myself included, wear the bracelets year round and some drive considerable distances to receive a new one each year.

It seemed appropriate, then, to include the metaphor in our Dream Away service this year. Dream Away is the two-Sunday program that covers off the story of the passion and Easter. I shared more about it in my Easter: Not Quite Yet post which you can read here. Beginning with the idea of light, this hymn emerged to the tune of the hypnotic Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees. It may, of course, be used at any time of the year and with any or all of the verses.

The tune in The United Church of Canada’s hymn book Voices Unitedis harmonized by F. R. C. Clarke, the organist who arrived in my home congregation, Sydenham Street UC in the year of my birth and remained there until his retirement. Clarke chaired the committee that created The Hymn Book, a collaboration between the Anglican and United churches, which I have often suggested terminated the negotiations between the Anglicans and the UCC. Neither denomination could entice its members to wholly embrace it; for the Anglicans, there was too much sentimentality and for United members, there were far too many haughty tunes considered exceedingly difficult to sing. As a highly skilled musician and composer, Clarke undoubtedly had a hand in raising the standards of hymnody in his leadership role in the effort, even though he was a United Church musician at the time.

Throughout my ministry, I have often chosen hymns with which I assume United Church members will be familiar because they are tunes I grew up with. Alas, it seems only Clarke’s own congregation was forced to learn every tune in The Hymn Book. I am certain Clarke would have agreed with me that not knowing those tunes is a great loss to many. In fact, this song, We Are Light, was written solely because the first song I wrote for our Dream Away service was to King’s Weston, a tune Scott didn’t know and assumed the congregation wouldn’t either. I’ll post it next week. In the meantime, enjoy singing this to its very well-known tune.

Usually, I try to find a Youtube video that includes the music so that you can sing along but was unsuccessful this time around. Those instrumentals that followed the verses closely were all too slow and those that were instrumentals paced appropriately were all, well, instrumentals. They weren’t played to accompany singing. When we sang We Are Light on Sunday, Scott played the tune at a faster pace than it is usually sung during communion services. I’d invite you to find what works for you.

We Are Light
Tune: Let Us Break Bread, traditional African spiritual
Traditional Hymn: Let Us Break Bread Together

When we all stand together, we are light.
When we all stand together, we are light.
When we all reach out our hands, ev’ry woman and every man,
When we all stand together, we are light.

When we all strive for wisdom, we are light.
When we all strive for wisdom, we are light.
When we share the truths we know, all humanity then might grow
When we all strive together, we are light.

When we all march for freedom, we are light.
When we all march for freedom, we are light.
When we open wide our eyes, bear the truth that around us lies,
When we all march together, we are light.

When we love one another, we are light.
When we love one another, we are light.
When love wears our barriers through, you see me and I see you, too.
When we all love together, we are light.

When we dream of tomorrow, we are light.
When we dream of tomorrow, we are light.
‘Til we wake and all is true, we have much more that we must do.
When we all dream together, we are light.
© 2017 gretta vosper

 

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