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Singing a New Song: Traditional hymn tunes with contemporary ecological lyrics

George Stuart of Toronto Uniting Church has written seven hymn books providing over 600 sets of 21st century lyrics written to well-loved traditional hymn tunes.  

This includes three volumes for each year of the Revised Common Lectionary, plus four volumes covering a range of areas, including:

  • Kingdom of God
  • Discipleship
  • Jesus' life and teaching
  • The trinity
  • Seasons of the church
  • Sacraments and special services
  • Environment
  • Nature and the cosmos
  • Social justice and violence

You can download these lyrics freely from George's website, or order hard copies.  Visit George Stuart's website to access the lyrics and for more information.

Sample lyrics are below.  George is delighted for people to use these lyrics freely.  Please acknowledge him when you do so, and he would also appreciate you letting him know.

Wonder and Radiance

Suggested tune: Faithfulness, TiS 154 / not in AHB*
 
Movement and colour are graces so pleasing;
Sounds and sweet perfumes are here to delight;
Oceans and mountains and flora and fauna -
Too many marvels for us to recite.
 
Wonder and radiance,
Beauty, extravagance,
All come together in what we can see;
Nature’s abundance can fill all our senses;
We are in awe of these gifts that are free.
 
Given for everyone, now and the future;
Given for sharing, not profit or greed;
Food for the hungry and drink for the thirsty;
There is sufficient for meeting each need.
 
Wonder and radiance,
Beauty, extravagance,
All come together in what we can see;
Nature’s abundance can fill all our senses;
We stand in awe of these gifts that are free.
 
Love and respect for the world all around us
Can make a diff’rence; can halt future doom;
Can help some healing; prevent grim destruction;
Show our thanksgiving and help nature bloom.
 
Wonder and radiance,
Beauty, extravagance -
These priceless gifts are for you and for me;
Nature’s abundance can thrill all our senses;
We must protect and preserve all we see.

 

The Universe in God

From Volume 1 of "Singing a New Song"
To the tune: Lauda Anima/Praise My Soul, AHB 68 / TIS 179

All creation sings a story
Of great splendours to declare;
When we contemplate its beauty
We are called forth into prayer.
We, enchanted, stand in silence;
God discovered everywhere.

When we stumble on new knowledge,
When new insights help us grow,
We are quick to re-discover
Just how much we do not know.
But the Universe smiles gently,
As our theories come and go.

Outer space and inner being
Both have secrets they conceal.
Galaxies so grimly awesome,
Deep emotions that we feel -
All in God are judged as sacred;
It is God they all reveal.

Ageless mysteries still excite us;
Time and space we must explore.
God the ‘Presence’ and ‘Surrounding’,
God the ever wondrous ‘More’ -
Not just found by science labours,
But in praise when we adore.

 

Christmas - Mid-summer

From Volume 2 of "Singing a New Song"
To the tune: Cranham. Not in AHB or TIS.
Presbyterian Hymnary 50  
Methodist Hymn-book 137
(Traditional words - In the bleak mid-winter.)

In the mild mid-summer pleasant winds can blow;
Balmy zephyrs soothe us; wafting to and fro;
Christmas has its beauty; Mary’s pain is past;
Lullaby her first born; parents’ joy at last.

In the warm mid-summer drying winds can blow;
Cooling breezes freshen in the evening glow;
Christmas has its contrasts; happiness and stress;
Wonder of a child birth, but in stable mess.

In the hot mid-summer scorching winds can blow;
Rainless days unending, rivers cease to flow;
Christmas has its harshness; it can linger still;
Cattle shed for birthing; Herod plans to kill.

Summer is the season when we harvest grain;
When the fruit from nature ripens on the plain;
Christmas, here in summer, hot or warm or mild
Is the time for growing; following the child.

 

Stewards of the Climate

From Volume 2 of "Singing a New Song"
Suggested tune: Finlandia, AHB 48  
TIS 123, 613, 695


We are the stewards of this wondrous earth
With all its teeming life of priceless worth;
In all creation God is thus revealed
In birds and beasts, in forests and each field;
We offer thanks for all of nature’s grace;
For God is present in each time and place.

How dare we then abuse this sacred trust
Because of comfort, pleasure, greed or lust;
Yet endless is our thirst for energy;
We burn resources quite relentlessly;
We have been warned; but madly we proceed
To try to satisfy this frantic need.

With climate warming, ocean levels rise;
Extremes in weather is a loathsome prize;
Deforestation dries the river bed;
Expanding deserts change the green to red;
We can’t stand by and let these crimes persist;
Stop exploitation. Yes; we must insist!

Let us resolve to change the way we live;
Instead of taking extra, let us give;
Call on our leaders; “Take up Nature’s cause.”
We need sustainability in laws;
God is the one who hurts when things go wrong;
Let nature sing aloud its glorious song.

 

Some Reviews

"The emergence of Progressive Theology with its themes of the blessings of creation, intellectual honesty, inclusiveness and an active commitment to justice and peace has a powerful ally in George Stuart.  His new words to traditional hymn tunes enable worship leaders to introduce or complement their proclamation of progressive theology in effective and inspiring ways to both traditional and contemporary congregations.”

Rev Brian Brown  - Hamilton Wesley Uniting Church, NSW

“I wish to congratulate George Stuart for this Hymn Book where he addresses many contemporary aspects of Australian religious life that have never been addressed before in any Hymn Book.  He addresses the  Environment, Social Justice and Violence, the Canberra Affirmation, Pushing the Limits (Dreaming of a New Faith) along with Inter-faith issues and includes “Fun Songs” (I thought “Jonah” No. 91 is a classic).  He gives to Australia a practical way to actually live one’s Christianity.  George , your work is a landmark in Australian contemporary worship.”

Rev John Wessell - Uniting Church Tweed Heads, NSW

 

* AHB = Australian Hymn Book, TIS = Together in Song

Intro: Toronto Uniting Church member George Stuart has written two hymn books of lyrics on a variety of themes, including ecology, to traditional tunes.