Skip to comments.Charles Wesley's hymns provide soundtrack for Rome ecumenical event
Posted on 12/04/2007 1:52:05 PM PST by NYer
ROME (CNS) -- Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists filled Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls with some of the most famous hymns written by Charles Wesley at a service marking the 300th anniversary of the Methodist reformer's birth.
The songs, featured in hymnals across denominational lines, were the focal point of the Dec. 3 ecumenical evening prayer service in the Catholic basilica.
The Rev. John Barrett, president of the World Methodist Council said, "It was mind-blowing really" to celebrate Wesley and sing his hymns "in Rome with an ecumenical gathering."
"I think Charles Wesley would be thrilled. He did not write these hymns just for Methodist people, but because they expressed Christian truths," Rev. Barrett said.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, presided over the prayer service and told the congregation it was appropriate to celebrate the anniversary of Wesley's birth with his songs because it is "through these hymns that Roman Catholics have come to know and appreciate" him.
Charles Wesley and his older brother, John, were Anglican ministers who began the reform movement that eventually became the Methodist church. While John's break with the Church of England was almost total, Charles continued to serve as an Anglican minister until his death.
The younger Wesley wrote some 6,000 hymns, including "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" and "Love Divine, All Love Excelling."
Cardinal Kasper said the "eloquent language and theological depth" of Wesley's hymns address the basic truths of Christian faith that Catholics and Methodists hold in common.
They speak of "God's universal love made known in Jesus Christ, the call to scriptural holiness and renewal of life, the sacramental life of the church, Christian hope and the presence of the Holy Spirit," the cardinal said.
Rev. Barrett told the congregation, "Methodism was born in song." But, unfortunately today even in Methodist congregations his hymns are increasingly replaced by "praise hymns long on emotion but short on theology," he said.
He said young people seem to find it difficult to sing traditional hymns, and they seem to have difficulty articulating what they believe. "I think the two are related," he added.
In an interview after the service, he said he thought too many Christians of all denominations are turning to "easy, undemanding worship songs."
"It is a great pity if you do not sing hymns with a theological content; you will not learn to articulate theological truths," he said.
Anglican Bishop John Flack, the archbishop of Canterbury's representative in Rome, also participated in the service, which featured a quartet from the Church of England parish in Rome, an Italian Methodist choir and a Gospel choir from an African Methodist Episcopal Zion parish in Decatur, Ga.
Bishop Flack read a message from Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, who said Wesley "made his theology so brilliantly accessible through his hymns, which taught generations of Anglicans and Methodists, and an increasingly large number of others, how to inhabit the world of scriptural and traditional imagery with grace and fervor and intelligence."
The Rev. George Freeman, general secretary of the World Methodist Council, said Wesley's hymns have been used in the official Catholic-Methodist dialogue to demonstrate how many essentials of faith and doctrine the two hold in common.
"We have found a resonance that, like a tuning fork, strikes a responsive chord within us both," he said. "We are encouraged that our dialogue partners see the hymns of Charles Wesley as gifts to be received and as a theological source, which can assist us in working toward full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life."
Say what you will about the methodists, they have some beautiful hymns.
They wrote those back when they followed the Bible.
there are more Wesley hymns in the Episcopal hymnal than the Methodist hymnal, so I’ve been told.
Perhaps that’s because they were Anglican.
Don-o and I are pretty strongly into shape-note singing, and the “shapers” use some of the Wesley hymns. As a Catholic, I have to say they were wonderful: theologically, musically, in every way.
These are Anglican hymns! These hymns are only Methodist in the same sense the William Byrd’s music can be considered Anglican! As the article points out, Wesley never left the Anglican church. The fact that the Methodists recognized a good thing after the fact is beside the point!
I agree. These are great hymns and there is little or nothing to object to in their theology.
got that right, mware, and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Merry Christmas to you and yours EDINVA.
Always delighted when they post a hymn by Charles Wesley.
It’s not as strange as it may seem. We are all Christians, after all. The hymnal we use in our parish has all of Martin Luther’s greatest hits...
These are Anglican hymns! These hymns are only Methodist in the same sense the William Byrds music can be considered Anglican! As the article points out, Wesley never left the Anglican church. The fact that the Methodists recognized a good thing after the fact is beside the point! Though the Wesley brothers, both Charles and John, never left the Anglican Church, they willingly took on the derisive label "Methodists". These Methodists were mocked for their pietism and strength of language. The attacks on the Methodist movement came from all corners, but primarily from the clergy in the Anglican Church.
Of the many criticisms offered by the Anglican clergy, one of the most frequent concerned the fact that uneducated laymen were used as preachers in the Methodist movement. There's a famous story about this practice: On one occasion, such a preacher took as his text Luke 19:21, "Lord, I feared thee, because thou art an austere man." Not knowing the word "austere," he thought that the text spoke of "an oyster man." He spoke about the work of those who retrieve oysters from the sea-bed. The diver plunges down from the surface... He gropes in the dark, cutting his hands on the sharp edges of the shells. Now he has the oyster, and kicks back up to the surface... clutching in his torn and bleeding hands the object of his search. So Christ descended from the glory of heaven into the squalor of earth, into sinful human society, in order to retrieve humans and bring them back up with Him to the glory of heaven, His torn and bleeding hands a sign of the value He has placed on the object of His quest. Twelve men were converted that evening. Afterwards, someone complained to Wesley about the inappropriateness of allowing preachers who were too ignorant to know the meaning of the texts they were preaching on. Wesley, simply said, "Never mind, the Lord got a dozen oysters tonight."
The Wesleys wanted to keep their movement a part of Anglicanism, but not all corners in Anglicanism necessarily wanted to keep the Methodists!
Say what you will about the methodists, they have some beautiful hymns....They wrote those back when they followed the Bible. There are many, many Methodists, like myself, who are Bible-believing Christians, and who resent the "interlopers" who have taken over much of our Church's leadership in the past 30 years. Though I constantly read about these so-called "progressives", I've not come across them personally in any of the churches I've attended. (They must appoint them to the more "hip" congregations, instead of the small, rural ones in which I've been a member.) We still sing Charles' songs at our services!
As you may know, Charles and John Wesley both served the Anglican congregation at Frederica, St. Simons Island, in the 1730s. Their church, Christ Church Frederica, is still the parish for the north half of the island, but the old building was burned during the Civil War.
There is now a Methodist conference center on the island, and the busloads of Methodists on tour always drop by Christ Church. They often file in and sit in the back -- and they are absolutely SHOCKED to find that they have walked in on an Episcopalian church service.
Well, DUH! Chuck & Jack never left the Anglicans, didn't want to leave the Anglicans, and didn't mean for their followers to leave the Anglicans. It just happened.
Also apropos of that . . . when I was a young college student and engaged to marry my husband, his grandfather was a Methodist minister and the Chaplain of Emory University as well as senior pastor of a local church. I got invited to lunch over at Emory . . . and discovered to my surprise when I got there that the entire vestry or board of elders or whatever the Methodists call them had shown up for lunch too.
I got thoroughly cross-examined on my faith to see if I was suitable for the eldest son of the house . . . one sweet little old blue-haired lady asked me, "So, when are you going to convert, dear?" I replied, "Well, ma'am, since Charles and John Wesley lived and died Episcopalians, I hope it will be o.k. for me to do the same." She really didn't have much of a response, but I think they were relieved that (1) I wasn't a heathen; and (2) I knew my church history.
They would be absolutely horrified, I'm sure, to discover that all of us have gone Straight Over to Rome.
And so it was acknowledged. That seems totally appropriate. I believe the purpose of this gathering was to share 'commonality', especially through hymnal refrains. Would you agree this was acccomplished?
The Methodists, who boasted of some margin of learning over the Baptists (though hardly enough, it would seem, to boast about) took digs at their ignorance. They gave one definition of a Methodist as "a Baptist who has learned to read and write."
- Bible In Pocket, Gun In Hand: The Story of Frontier Religion
by Ross Phares, Bison Books, page 122.
When the American frontier opened up to settlement, and the ministers began to move west, the Baptists walked, the Methodists rode horseback, the Presbyterians took the stagecoach . . .
. . . but the Episcopalians waited until they invented the Pullman car!
Chuck & Jack never left the Anglicans, didn't want to leave the Anglicans, and didn't mean for their followers to leave the Anglicans. It just happened.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with two gentlemen from Jordan, after last Sunday's Mass. On learning they were from Jordan I asked if they were Maronite. They seemed perplexed and confirmed that they were Roman Catholic. That surprised me but, aware of the fact that there are a few RC parishes in Jordan, I decided to use this as a 'teaching moment' and introduced them to the 21 Eastern Catholic Churches, most of which are from their part of the world. I brought their names up at last night's Parish Council meeting and related the conversation from Sunday. Father said he recently ran into them at an event run by the Syrian Orthodox Church, along with their parents and cousins. He assumed they were Orthodox. He then explained that in the Middle East, families are so religiously mixed that many of these people no longer know into which Church they were baptized, if at all. He then proceed to relate the story behind a recent phone call from someone seeking official documents for his son, about to be married in Lebanon. He assured Father that his son had been Baptized and Chrismated in our parish, yet there are no records. The caller could not produce any witnesses either.
This simply intrigues me no end. In our parish we have a blend of Maronite, Melkite, Latin Rite and Orthodox who come together each Sunday, simply to worship God. No doubt God keeps His own records ;-)
I had absolutely no trouble getting my husband's baptismal certificate from the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church when he was received into the Catholic Church (the Episcopalians had never asked for a certificate when he was received into the ECUSA! The Catholics AND the Methodists are much better record-keepers. I didn't need to bother the ECUSA bishop here, 'cause I have the original baptismal certificate in our fireproof safe . . . )
Our folks who were here for any length of time were Methodist or Baptist, to the extent we know what they were. Mom's folks didn't immigrate until the 1860s and they stayed in the town, but they were Scotch Presbyterians of the deepest dye. We did have an English immigrant on my dad's side in the 1830s who stayed Anglican/Episcopal (although he was personally a freethinker as is apparent from his will, which is still sitting in the basement of the Floyd County courthouse). His descendants were Episcopalian mostly because they had reversed the westward movement and had moved BACK into Georgia and back to town. Rome GA considered itself as proud as Charleston SC, only better. < g > But they were still under the Bishop of Savannah (coastal city) until 1907! The Catholics didn't get an inland bishop until 1956!
Episcopalians/Anglicans were the First Families' denomination in the SOUTH. In the mid-Atlantic states (N.J., Delaware and so forth) the predominant church was Presbyterian (with a strong Quaker minority in PA), and in New England it was Congregationalist. The Catholics began with a strong minority in Maryland, but in N.E. they were always arrivistes.
As the Congregationalists lost steam, the Piskies tended to gain influence in New England, and I suppose they were the socially chi-chi church for most of the early part of the 20th century.
But it doesn't matter anywhere near as much as it used to. You don't HAVE to become an Episcopalian or Presbyterian when you make regional vice-president, not anymore.
I spent most of my growing up years in the Methodist church, which my parents went too after the local presbytery apostatized. We were with several Methodist churches in the Tulsa area until the local bishop sent us a minister who denied the virgin birth. I don’t put stock in denominations anymore - all of them have believing and apostate congregations. You have to warm a classroom and a pew for the sermon, and see if the words come from and line up with scripture these days.
“No doubt God keeps His own records.”
No doubt, NYer, no doubt indeed. :)
Absolutely! I was merely putting in a plug for Anglican church music, which arguably for a time maintained the reverence and beauty of the sacred more than did the music of any other denomination. Even 20 years ago, one was more likely to hear Palestrina at an Anglican service than at a Catholic Mass.
I love the following, which was written in 1985 by then Cardinal Ratzinger:
"In a way which we could not imagine thirty years ago, music has become the decisive vehicle of a counter-religion and thus calls for a parting of the ways. Since rock music seeks release through liberation from the personality and its responsibilÂity, it can be on the one hand precisely classified among the anarchic ideas of freedom which today predominate more openly in the West than in the East. But that is precisely why rock music is so completely antithetical to the Christian concept of redemption and freedom, indeed its exact opposite. Hence, music of this type must be excluded from the Church on principle, and not merely for aesthetic reasons, or because of restorative crankiness or historical inflexibility."
"If we were to continue our analysis of the anthropological foundations of various types of music, we could render our question even more concrete. There is an agitational type of music which animates men for various collective goals. There is a sensuous type of music which brings man into the realm of the erotic or in some other way essentially tends toward feelings of sensual desire. There is a purely entertaining type of music which desires to express nothing more than an interruption of silence. And there is a rationalistic type of music in which the tones only serve rational constructs, and in which there is no real penetration of spirit and senses. Many dry catechism hymns and many modern songs constructed by committees belong to this category. Music truly appropriate to the worship of the incarnate Lord exalted on the cross exists on the strength of a different, a greater, a much more truly comprehensive synthesis of spirit, intuition and audible sound. We might say that western music derives from the inner richness of this synthesis, indeed has developed and unfolded in a fullness of possibilities ranging from Gregorian chant and the music of the cathedrals via the great polyphony and the music of the renaissance and the baroque up to Bruckner and beyond. This pre-eminence is found only in the West because it could arise only out of an anthropological foundation which unites the spiritual and the profane in an ultimate human unity. And the pre-eminence disapÂpears to the degree that this anthropology vanishes. For me, the greatness of this music is the most obvious and immediate verification of the Christian image of man and of the Christian faith in the Redemption which could be found. Those who are truly impressed by this grandeur somehow realize from their innermost depths that the faith is true, even though they may need to travel some distance in order to carry out this insight with deliberate, understanding."
His essay on Music and the Liturgy just makes so much sense! He expresses very clearly what I knew in my bones, but could have come off as just Episcopalian music snobbery without his intellectual support!
The Anglicans/Episcopalians did preserve the best of Catholic music during the period when so many Catholic parishes were experimenting with the Haugen/Haas pop schlock. But I think the tide has turned. We hear through the ecclesiastical grapevine that people are coming to our 11:30 High Mass from all over town to hear the music.
I was amazed (and quite relieved) when I discovered that in our new Catholic parish choir I was still singing quite a number of the old standards from our old Episcopal choir - Tallis, Byrd, Palestrina, even Richard Farrant ("Hide Not Thou Thy Face" - a motet which has been described as 'a tiny gem of perfect lustre'). The main difference is the substitution of Gregorian chant (with the use of organum by our extremely learned choirmaster) for the four part Anglican chant.
I miss the Anglican chant, and I have a plot afoot to present our choirmaster with the big organist's edition of the 1982 Episcopal hymnal . . . the one with all the Anglican chant set out in parts.
And can it be?
Oh I wish I had been there. All those hymns, one after another? How glorious it would be.
I looked high & low for a video of any Wesley song done by Aled Jones for a BBC special, but couldn’t find them. His duet with himself of “O Holy Night” (I know, not Wesley) is among my favorites.
Anyway, in consolation - Attwood- Psalm 50 (Anglican Chant, King’s College Choir.)
Brick ones, as well. You posted a link to a site on Georgia courthouse fires a few years ago, and I came up with at least one they had missed.
Say, that’s nice.
No idea that kind of stuff was on Youtube!
My Charles Wesley Faves are:
Arise, My Soul, Arise
1. Arise, my soul, arise,
shake off your guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice,
in my behalf appears;
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.
Chorus: Arise (arise), arise (arise), arise
Arise, my soul, arise.
Arise (arise), arise (arise), arise
Arise, my soul, arise.
Shake off your guilty fears and rise
2. He ever lives above,
for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood, to plead;
His blood atoned for every race,
His blood atoned for every race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
3. Five bleeding wounds He bears;
received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
4. The Father hears Him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away
the presence of His Son;
The Spirit answers to the blood,
The Spirit answers to the blood
And tells me I am born of God.
5. My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemers praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
2. My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy Name.
Chorus: O for a thousand tongues
(O for a thousand tongues)
O for a thousand tongues
(O for a thousand tongues)
O for a thousand tongues to sing
3. Jesus! The Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
Tis music in the sinners ears,
Tis life, and health, and peace.
4. He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
5. He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
6. Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy
I think the above comment is incorrect when it says that some Christians turn to "easy, undemanding worship songs."
These Christians, in my view, had felt the result of cold application and repetition of theology in equally repetitive and cold worship services. They longed simply to enter into that which their worship services lacked....real, warm-hearted, whole-hearted praise of the Almighty God who inhabits the praise of His people.
They longed to be "in the Spirit," and it is in simple praise they were able to reclaim that.
When that loving worship of God is THEN combined with the old hymns, they are then poured forth from the heart, the theology sticks, the soul is blessed, and God is worshipped.
That is what this Methodist ordained Elder has learned from history as the way those songs were originally sung by Methodists........those overly ENTHUSIASTIC, Warm-Hearted Methodists.
I'll see you one Anglican Chant and raise you Faure' Pie Jesu (Requiem). Our choirmaster is a bug for the French 19th c. composers. Never sang any French music until we got here, I got a quick education on the major players in choral and organ music!
We sang this for a funeral recently -- unfortunately not with the boy soprano . . . I love the clear sound, so much better than an over-vibratoed heavy female soprano . . .
Couldn't find the Farrant "Hide Not Thou Thy Face" -- can't believe nobody's posted it -- but here is Lord For Thy Tender Mercy's Sake by the same composer. A classic of Anglican polyphony!
The courthouse in Cherokee County AL (where my dad's dad's family is from) has burned THREE times - most recently in the 1930s. Thank goodness some enterprising little old lady in tennis shoes had done a genealogical abstract BEFORE the place burned for the last time, 'cause all the deed books and marriage books got burnt up.
It's cruising to burn up again -- it's all ancient tinder-dry woodwork inside, and chopped up into tiny little corridors and rooms that you could never get out of if the place filled with smoke. Since the ceilings are the old high vaulted ones, when you're in those little cubes you feel like you're down a VERY deep well.
They ought to just rip the insides out, save what old woodwork they can, and start over. But nobody in that county has the money, I don't think.
This is so splendid and wonderful! We sing it in Shape Notes, too.
Regardless of what church Charles Wesley attended, the hymns belong to all of us. It is not relevant that he ‘never left the Anglican church.’ They are a gift to God’s creatures here on earth, for all time.
The really good hymns do have a way of allowing you to sing the truth into your heart, but I think done with a cold musical accompaniment we can slip into a hypnotic trance.
I really like what a bunch of our churches young folks have done with the hymns. Some of the CDs on this link are just outstanding, especially those by Indelible Grace.
You know Cedar Bluff?
My gggg grandfather is buried in the cemetery there.
Charles Wesley wrote some wonderful hymns. Better than Marty Haugen, to be sure!
I’m jealous that you get to sing Renaissance polyphony in your choir. We sing some pretty decent hymns for a Catholic church (red Worship hymnal) and the anthems are OK, but I would love a Byrd, Tallis or Palestrina, even if just once a month!
A couple of standards that anybody ought to be able to sing are the Byrd Ave Verum Corpus or the Tallis If Ye Love Me or Verily, Verily I Say Unto You. The Verily has a funny cross relation between the tenor and alto lines somewhere towards the end of the first section, but if the altos just shut their ears and bull ahead it will all be over in two beats!
I just got a copy of the 1991 edition a couple of months ago, and they have re-set the words at 350 to "Nativity" which does not appear elsewhere in the 1991 edition (OR in the 1971 or 1911) but is a VERY old hymn tune, 1812, and I know it from somewhere else.
We sang Faure’s Requiem a few years ago on All Souls’ Day. The soprano we had who did the Pie Jesu solo sang it beautifully - no vibrato. We still talk about it occasionally. At the time we also had an amazing priest musician as our choir director.
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