Writers Reflect on Well-Known Hymns: Is Your Favorite On This List?

Pipes And Pedals

My friend Elise Erikson Barrett does many things well. I first connected with her because we published books with the same publisher; her award-winning book What Was Lost: A Christian Journey Through Miscarriage is a wonderful resource for those grieving pregnancy loss. Elise is also an ordained Methodist minister currently working toward membership in the Roman Catholic Church (you can read more about that story here and here), a mom raising three kids on her own after her husband Chris (also an ordained minister, and a fine writer) died of lymphoma earlier this year, and a singer-songwriter. On her latest album Valley: Hymns for Travelers, Elise selected favorite hymns and put them in an order that reflects the basic cycle, apparent in human life, the natural world, and the Biblical narrative, of life/joy/discovery followed by suffering/pain/death leading to renewal/hope/resurrection. Elise intends Valley as musical accompaniment for everyday life, an opportunity to listen to favorite hymns not just in church, but as we exercise, work, clean, drive, or rest.

To celebrate the release of Valley, Elise asked a bunch of her writer friends to pick a favorite hymn from the album and write (or produce some other form of art) about it. She then posted those reflections on her blog every day for a couple of weeks. I wrote about "Now the Green Blade Riseth," my favorite Easter hymn because unlike so many Easter hymns, it's a little bit melancholy. In my piece, I write about why that sense of melancholy is meaningful for me.

Given our love of music at St. James's, I wanted to share the entire series of hymn reflections with you here. I hope you find one or two of your favorite hymns on this list, and that these reflections allow you to sing with more gusto or a new perspective the next time that Vaughn chooses them for our services. If you are interested in purchasing the entire Valley album in CD or digital format, you may do so here.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing - Maria Kane

I Sing the Mighty Power of God - Scott Neely

Be Still, My Soul - Karl Persson

Trust and Obey - Frank Felice

What Wondrous Love is This - Rob Saler

Ah, Holy Jesus - Jessica Mesman Griffith

Canticle of the Turning - Claire K. McKeever-Burgett

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go - Lanecia Rouse Tinsley

Now the Green Blade Riseth - Ellen Painter Dollar

It is Well with My Soul - Katherine Willis Pershey

How Firm a Foundation - Sarah Morice Brusker

I Want Jesus to Walk with Me - Nate Pyle

Trust and Obey - Andrew Schep

Be Thou My Vision - Edwin Woodruff Tait

Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Her articles, blog posts, book chapters, and books have been published by the Christian Century, GeneWatch Magazine, the New York Times‘s Motherlode blog, OnFaith,Brain, Child Magazine, the Episcopal Cafe, Christianity Today, the Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) Foundation, Virtual Mentor (the American Medical Association’s online journal of ethics), and more. She blogs about faith, family, disability, and ethics at Patheos.