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 ;-)
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