History of Hymns: 'For All the Faithful Women'
By C. Michael Hawn
“For All the Faithful Women”
by Herman G. Stuempfle Jr.
For all the faithful women
who served in days of old,
to you shall thanks be given;
To all their story told.
They served with strength and gladness
in tasks your wisdom gave.
To you their lives bore witness,
proclaimed your power to save.*
© 1993 GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Several recent hymn writers have contributed hymns that acknowledge the role of women in the biblical narrative and their contribution to the history of Christianity. These include, among others, “For Ages Women Hoped and Prayed” (1986) by Presbyterian hymn writer Jane Parker Huber (1926–2008); “Woman, Weeping in the Garden” (1991) and “God, We Praise You for the Women” (2006) by United Methodist minister Daniel Damon (b. 1955); “Of Women, and of Women’s Hopes We Sing” (1988) by New Zealand Presbyterian Shirley Erena Murray (1931–2020), and “Woman in the Night” (1982) by UK/USA hymn writer Brian Wren (b. 1936).
Herman G. Stuempfle Jr. (1923–2007), one of the most prolific and theologically thoughtful hymn writers in the United States at the turn of the twenty-first century, wrote a hymn that highlights the contributions of some of the leading biblical women. It appeared in a six-stanza version in the first collection of the author’s texts, The Word Goes Forth (1993), that included Miriam (Exodus 15:19–21), Deborah (Judges 5:2–31), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1–2:10), Mary, Christ’s mother (Luke 1:26–38), and Mary Magdalene (John 20:1–18), who encountered the risen Christ on Resurrection morning.
The earliest version of the hymn was prepared in 1975 for the tenth anniversary of the first woman ordained in the Lutheran Church in America, Elizabeth A Platz, a graduate of Gettysburg seminary, where the author was then dean of the faculty. Rather than celebrating women’s pastoral leadership, the hymn focuses on women’s roles in the Bible. The number of stanzas varies according to the ecclesial tradition represented by the hymnal. A supplement for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod published a twelve-stanza version in 1998. Recent Lutheran hymnals such as This Far by Faith (1999), Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), and Lutheran Service Book (2006) include twelve or thirteen stanzas. In addition to the women mentioned in the previous paragraph, additional stanzas feature Ruth (Ruth 1:8–18), Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38–42), the unnamed woman at the well (John 4:1–42), Dorcas (Acts 9:36), and Eunice and Lois (2 Timothy 1:5).
Stuempfle structures each stanza by introducing a biblical woman and placing her within the biblical narrative. He concludes the stanza with a petition that invites the singer to emulate the virtues exemplified by the woman.
In its extended version, the hymn follows a pattern established by Anglican priest J.S.B. Monsell (1811–1875) in his “Ye Saints! In Blest Communion,” which was imitated by British hymn writer Horatio Bolton Nelson (1823–1913) in “From All Thy Saints in Warfare” (1864), later revised by Episcopal priests F. Bland Tucker (1895–1984) and Jerry Godwin as “By All Your Saints Still Striving” for the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 (1985). These hymns provided a general opening stanza, followed by individual stanzas focusing on the feast days of particular biblical saints, concluding with a general doxological stanza. Only the stanza describing a specific saint would be sung on the appointed day in the sanctoral cycle of feast days. This allowed the hymn to be sung throughout the year in three or four stanzas, a practice followed primarily in Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal, and Lutheran traditions. The Episcopal Hymnal 1982 (1985) provides stanzas for twenty-three saints’ days, including All Saints’ Day. Only two stanzas mention women: Saint Mary Magdalene (July 22), a stanza added by Godwin, and Saint Mary the Virgin (August 15). Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) and Lutheran Service Book (2006) follow a similar pattern.
Stuempfle’s hymn provides a corrective to the hymnic tradition by including stanzas on ten biblical women in addition to Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. Several hymnals, usually from traditions that do not follow the sanctoral cycle, feature four, five, or six representative stanzas. The Finnish melody NYLAND (KUORTANE) is the most frequent melody paired with Stuempfle’s text in the ten hymnals mentioned in Hymnary.org.
Originally from Clarion, Pennsylvania, Herman Stuempfle was educated at Susquehanna University (A.B.), Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg (B.D.), Union Theological Seminary, New York (S.T.M.), and Southern California School of Theology at Claremont (Th.D.). After serving parishes in Pennsylvania and Maryland between 1947 and 1959, Stuempfle joined the Board of Social Missions of the United Lutheran Church in America staff in 1959. In 1962, he became a professor of preaching at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, a position he retained until his retirement in 1989. Dr. Stuempfle also served the seminary as dean from 1971–1976 and president from 1976–1989. He was active during much of his retirement in Gettysburg, continuing to teach, preach, lead workshops and conferences, and write hymns. He died on March 13, 2007, after a long battle with ALS.
Dr. Stuempfle was the author of several books on preaching and theology, including Theological and Biblical Perspectives on the Laity (1973), Preaching in the Witnessing Community (1973), Preaching Law and Gospel (1978), and Images for Ministry: Perspectives of a Seminary President (1995). His collections of hymn texts are published by GIA Publications, Inc., and include The Word Goes Forth (1993), Redeeming the Time (1997), Awake Our Hearts to Praise (2000), and Wondrous Love Has Called Us (2006). His hymn texts have also been published by the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada and are found in numerous hymnals and choral works. Dr. Stuempfle was honored as a Fellow of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, the Society’s highest honor, in 2004 for his contributions to hymn writing.
His obituary, published by The Hymn Society, stated: “Stuempfle is among the most honored and respected of hymn writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. His four volumes of hymn texts, published by GIA Publications, include songs of devotion and reflection; dancing and jubilation; sorrow, wonder, and delight.” Herman Stuempfle promoted the relationship between preaching and hymn writing: “hymns are the sung testimony to God’s mighty acts of grace and judgment.” To compose hymns was for him a “fundamental vocation to communicate the Gospel.”
Carl P. Daw Jr., Glory to God: A Companion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 327–329.
Raymond F. Glover, Ed., The Hymnal 1982 Companion, Vol. 3A (New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, 1994), 460–462.
Joe Herl et al., Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, Vol. 1 (St. Louis; Concordia Publishing House, 2019), 1321–1325.
Michael Silhavy, “Herman G. Stuempfle,” The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press, http://www.hymnology.co.uk/h/herman-g-stuempfle (accessed March 11, 2023).
Herman Stuempfle, The Word Goes Forth: Hymns, Songs, and Carols (Chicago: GIA Publishing, Inc., 1993), No. 42.
Paul Westermeyer, Hymnal Companion: Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2010), 240–241.
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.