History of Hymns: 'Diverse in Culture, Nation, Race'
By Daniel Dangca
“Diverse in Culture, Nation, Race”
by Ruth Duck
Santo Santo Santo/Holy Holy Holy, 413
Worship (4th Edition), 842
Diverse in culture, nation, race,
We come together by Your grace.
God, let us be a meeting ground
Where hope and healing love are found.*
*© 1992, GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ruth C. Duck (b. 1947), born in Washington, D.C., is an alumna of Southwestern-at-Memphis University (BA, 1969), Chicago Theological Seminary (MDiv, 1973), The University of Notre Dame (MA, 1987) and Boston University School of Theology (Th.D., 1989). She served as a professor of worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston, IL). Duck is renowned for her contribution to inclusive language for worship and hymnody. She has written many books on liturgy, hymns, and theology. She was named a Fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada in 2013.
A church that does not broaden its outreach beyond the walls of its worship space is doomed for closure. In Duck’s hymn, “Diverse in culture, creed, nation, race,” she makes good our vow, as disciples of Christ, to live out the glories of Pentecost. Based on the Pentecost accounts in Acts 2:1–11 and Ephesians 2:11–22, Duck responds to a growing global church. Using the TALLIS’ CANNON, one of the nine tunes developed by Thomas Tallis in his Psaltery, Duck makes profound statements within the condensed nature of nine measures per stanza.
This hymn is Ruth Duck’s manifesto for a church that is more inclusive, more welcoming, and that practices radical hospitality. The text was written in 1991 for the centennial of the Christian Association of the University of Pennsylvania, where Duck served as a campus ministry intern from 1972 to 197,3 and first published in the author's collection, Dancing in the Universe (Chicago, 2005).
Dr. Beverly Dale, then the director of the Christian Association, inspired many of its concepts and images. Others were drawn from the organization’s purpose statement (Duck, 2005, p. 26). The Christian Association’s purpose is to “foster a community of hospitality, service, advocacy, and faith exploration. They strive to live out the Gospel message, to bring God’s love to Penn students, faculty, staff, and neighbors, and to welcome every person regardless of religious affiliation, orientation, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, or gender” (https://upennca.org). Duck embodies these principles and perpetuates their meaning in this hymn, inviting the worldwide church to participate in this mission.
The first stanza speaks of a church that is a gathering of many peoples of different backgrounds in one place. Duck acknowledges the tensions that may be found when people gather but focuses on the gathering of people of faith. Duck states in her book, Worship for the Whole People of God (2013), “Christian worship has been diverse from the beginning, always drawing on cultural expressions to one degree or another” (Duck, 2013, 35).
The second stanza encourages God’s people to relate to others with compassion. A “bridge of care” not only suggests a connection between communities but also the attempt to approach relationships with empathy and understanding. Duck also emphasizes Ephesians 2:14 with the call to unite all things that divide a people—fear, hate, power—and implores God to help communities confront such divisive societal elements. As Christ has united Jews with Gentiles into one people, it is the prayer of this stanza that God calls on us to confront such matters.
The third stanza recognizes elements in society that inhibit the building of community. Emphasizing Ephesians 2:17 in the first half, Duck reminds us that Christ came to preach peace and resolve conflicts. Duck invokes the Holy Spirit to “make us wise.” She states, “It resonates with the joy of Pentecost, when ‘each one heard them speaking in the native tongue of each (Acts 2:6b), hearing the good news of what God did through Christ’” (Duck, 2013, p. 51) .Duck continues the stanza with a call for justice, to resolve conflicts peacefully, and to be in solidarity with those who suffer from such conflicts.
The final stanza brings forth the feast for everyone. “The congregation must gather at Christ’s welcome table, the Eucharist, and around the table of dialogue and common meals” (Duck, 2013, p. 55). For Duck, the table is for all who long to partake. Highlighting the principles of the Christian Association, the table is a place of welcome. Grace is present, all the divisions stated in previous stanzas are resolved, and community is built.
This hymn appears in more than ten Catholic and Protestant hymnals in the United States, almost uniformly with TALLIS’ CANNON. This tune allows one or more stanzas to be sung in two, three, or four-part canon, symbolizing the diverse entrances of various voices. It has also been translated into Spanish as “De raza cuna y nación” by Georgina Pando Connolly (b. 1946).
Ruth Duck, Dancing Through the Universe (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 2005).
_____, Worship for the Whole People of God (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013).
The Christian Association, https://upennca.org (accessed January 26, 2023).
Daniel Dangca is the Senior Coordinator for Liturgical Life in the Office of Mission and Ministry at Gonzaga University. Daniel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Music degree with a Choral Conducting emphasis from Western Oregon University, and an M.A. in Theology and Leadership from Gonzaga University. He is a candidate in the Doctor of Pastoral Music degree program, at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, where he studied hymnology with Dr. C. Michael Hawn.