BETHLEHEM: New hymn commissioned to celebrate Christian unity

February 17, 2011

Three city center Bethlehem churches have joined together to commission a new hymn. Trinity Episcopal Church, Salem Lutheran Church and Central Moravian Church, along with Moravian Theological Seminary, have asked noted hymn writer Brian Wren to pen a new hymn to reflect the joy of their union. The new work will debut March 11 at Moravian College's Foy Concert Hall. Wren will be in Bethlehem to present the Weber Memorial Lecture. The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Moravian Church in North America each celebrate full communion agreements that allow the three denominations to share clergy and work together in mission. The ELCA has been a full communion partner with the Episcopal Church since 2001 and with the Moravian Church since 1999. The Episcopal Church and the two provinces of the Moravian Church in North America formally inaugurated a full-communion relationship on Feb. 10, 2011. The Rev. Steve Simmons, director of Moravian's Continuing Education program, writes, "A good new hymn may surprise and delight us with its theology, poetry and music. Sung often, it can lull us into inattention, or surprise us with sudden relevance." During the Weber Memorial Lecture, Wren "will introduce some of his own recent work, as well as new hymns by Richard Leach and Shirley Murray, and invite us to converse about them and sing them. In the process, he will discuss the history, practice, and future of congregational singing in a time of rapidly changing styles of worship," according to Simmons. Wren says, "Perhaps one or two will catch our imagination and become familiar enough to express our deepest needs and beliefs, yet still be able to surprise." Wren studied at Oxford, taking degrees in modern languages and theology, including a Doctor of Philosophy for work on the Hebrew prophets. After ordination, he pastored a Congregational church in Essex, served as consultant to the British Council of Churches, and worked in the student-based world poverty campaign, Third World First. Since 1983, Wren has followed a freelance ministry, helping worshippers, ministers, educators and musicians to improve skills, and deepen spirituality. Recently retired as John and Miriam Conant Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary, he currently lives in upstate New York with his wife Susan Heafield, a United Methodist pastor.