History of Hymns: 'As Man and Woman We Were Made'
By Seth Luna and C. Michael Hawn
“As Man and Woman We Were Made”
By Brian Wren
The United Methodist Hymnal, 642
As man and woman we were made
As man and woman we were made
*© 1983 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
**Representative Text available at Hymnary.org. © 1983. Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Although not uniformly practiced, singing hymns during wedding ceremonies is one way to acknowledge that the rite is an act of worship—distinguishing it from a civil ceremony—and a way for those gathered to express their joy and support for the couple.
Written in 1973 and first published in Mainly Hymns (1980), the original title of “As Man and Woman We Were Made” was “Wedding Carol.” Brian Wren (b. 1936) set the hymn to the tune SUSSEX CAROL which is closely associated with the festive carol “On Christmas night all Christians sing.” The use of this tune infuses the hymn with a compound folk-style lilt and invokes the celebratory mood associated with Christmas. SUSSEX CAROL requires a less common poetic meter 88.88.88, an extension of L.M.
The hymn’s four stanzas are subtitled as “love, joy, hope, and peace,” although these subtitles do not necessarily appear in other hymnals. Each of these theme words appears in their respective stanzas. The exterior stanzas (1 and 4) concern human celebration, while the interior stanzas (2 and 3) refer to Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana (John 2) and the hope and love brought by Jesus’ death and Resurrection, where God “waits to wipe away all tears” (Rev 7:17). The final stanza begins, “Then spread the table”—a eucharistic allusion and a reference to great feasts found in several places in scripture (Isa 25:6–8; Rev 19:11–19). This stanza serves as a recapitulation, and though not specifically referenced, implies the realized joys of the new creation. Love, joy, and peace are each mentioned, but hope is not, because, as Wren implies, hope has given way to sight.
Wren often revises his hymns over the years as he sharpens his theology. The final line of the first stanza is “through child or parent, man or wife.” He published a revised form of the hymn, quoted at the beginning of this article, in Faith Looking Forward (1983) in which he changed the final line to “husband, wife.” In Piece Together Praise: A Theological Journey (1993), the author places the hymn in a separate section labeled “Hymns Not Included.” Hymnary.org provides a third revision that avoids the gendered language altogether in the final line of stanza 1. This is also cited at the beginning of this article.
Brian Wren has been developing a theology of gender language in hymns since the publication of his book, What Language Shall I Borrow? God-Talk in Worship: A Male Response to Feminist Theology (1989). His theology of gender-based language continued to evolve in Praying Twice: The Music of Congregational Song (2000). The latest version of this hymn is rooted in the author’s attempts to avoid binary-based gender language for the Trinity. One attempt follows in this doxology (Wren, 2000, p. 242) composed to be paired with REGENT SQUARE:
Praise the Lover of Creation,
Praise the Spirit, Friend of Friends,
Praise the true Beloved, our Savior,
Praise the God who makes and mends,
strong, surrendered, many-splendored.
Three whose Oneness never ends.
© 1989 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
“As Man and Woman We Were Made” has fallen out of favor with Wren because of his central desire to be “inclusive” in all matters, including gender. The author suggests that two other hymns he has written—“When Love Is Found” (1983) and “God, the All-Holy” (1996)—“better express its themes” (Wren, 1993, p. 177). “When Love Is found” (The UM Hymnal, 643) avoids any mention of gender in the marital relationship. “God, the All-Holy” is a hymn on the theme of love structured around the attributes of each person of the Trinity that contribute to a trusting, healthy, and lasting relationship.
Wesley Milgate and D’Arcy Wood, A Companion to Together in Song: Australian Hymn Book II (Sydney: The Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd, 2006).
J. Richard Watson, “As Man and Woman We Were Made,” The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology Canterbury Press, http://www.hymnology.co.uk/a/as-man-and-woman-we-were-made (accessed May 7, 2021).
____, “Brian Arthur Wren,” The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press, http://www.hymnology.co.uk/b/brian-arthur-wren (accessed May 7, 2021).
Brian Wren, “As Man and Woman We Were Made,” Hymnary.org. https://hymnary.org/text/as_man_and_woman_we_were_made#authority_media_flexscores (accessed May 7, 2021).
_____, Mainly Hymns (Leeds: John Paul the Preacher’s Press, 1980).
_____, Piece Together Praise: A Theological Journey—Poems and Collected Hymns Thematically Arranged (Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1996).
_____, Praying Twice: The Music and Words of Congregational Song (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000).
Seth Luna is a Master of Sacred Music student at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, where he studies hymnology with Dr. Marcell Silva Steuernagel.
C. Michael Hawn, D.M.A., F.H.S., is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music and Adjunct Professor, and Director, Doctor of Pastoral Music Program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.