History of Hymns: 'Restore in Us, O God'
By Mykayla Turner, Guest Contributor
“Restore in Us, O God”
by Carl P. Daw Jr.
Restore in us, O God,
the splendors of your love;
renew your image in our hearts,
and all our sins remove.*
*© 1989 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Since it took its initial form as an anthem sung by the 1987 Diocesan Choir Camp in Connecticut, “Restore in Us, O God” by Carl P. Daw Jr. (b. 1944) boasts ten different hymnal appearances (Westermeyer, 2010, p. 120). The text appeared as a hymn without music in the author’s first collection, A Year of Grace: Hymns for the Church Year (1990), where Daw recommends the tunes FRANCONIA, ST. BRIDE, and SOUTHWELL (Daw, 1990, p. 52). Most recently, the text appeared in three hymnals published in 2013 with diverse denominational affiliations—Glory to God (Presbyterian Church (USA)), Community of Christ Sings (Community of Christ), and Hymns Ancient and Modern (Church of England)—respectively set to BAYLOR, ST. MICHAEL, and NARENZA.
Since Daw wrote the text in the late 1980s, it does not appear in The Hymnal 1982, even though it serves an important liturgical function during the Lenten season for his fellow Episcopalians. Daw notes that “this text reflects the historic understanding of Lent as a time to prepare catechumens for Baptism and penitents for reconciliation at the Easter Vigil” (Daw, 2016, p. 438). Numerous early Christian sources instruct church leaders to invoke the Trinity when conducting a baptismal rite, represented in Daw’s text by stanza-by-stanza references to God, the Holy Spirit, and Christ (White, 1992, 148–66). Each of the first three stanzas includes a scriptural reference, but the first stanza most obviously draws from Jeremiah 31:31–34, making this hymn especially suitable for the fifth Sunday of Lent in Year B for congregations familiar with the Revised Common Lectionary (Daw, 2016, p. 439). The final stanza calls upon the Triune God, although it borrows “three-personed God” from Holy Sonnet XIV by John Donne (Daw, 2016, 438).
Just as the text progressively addresses the three persons of the Trinity, Daw’s text invites congregants to embark on a theological journey. The first stanza commences with an expression of collective penitence, affirming God’s transcendent character and acknowledging how sin separates humans from the divine so that we must call upon God to “renew your image in our hearts.” From here, the text shifts to hopeful glimpses of divine “power,” “joy,” and “grace” with images of botanical growth and baptismal resurrection. These images culminate in an eschatological conclusion: “We, when all our searching ends, / may see you face to face.” Several scholars note the correlation between this line and T.S. Eliot’s original expression of the same idea in lines 241–44 of “Little Gidding” in his famous Four Quartets (Daw, 2016, 438):
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And to know the place for the first time.
Daw does not directly quote Eliot, making it difficult to appreciate the reference at first glance, but an analysis of both text and tune strengthens the allusion and its theological import.
Written in a poetic Short Meter (22.214.171.124) syllabic sequence, “Restore in Us, O God” fits within the framework of numerous old and new tunes, but it receives the most scholarly attention when it appears in combination with Hal H. Hopson’s BAYLOR. Although he received a Baptist education, Hopson (b. 1933) has spent much of his adult life in Presbyterian circles, including a teaching position at Westminster Choir College and service on the national board of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians (Westermeyer, 2010, p. 121). He composed this minor tune in 1985, but it bears a strong resemblance to sixteenth-century psalmody with its symmetrical character, strong pulse, and voice-leading harmonies. These attributes lead Daw to describe BAYLOR as “pleasingly archaic” (2016, p. 438). Based on Hopson’s 2012 article titled “Singing the Psalms: A Composer and Church Musician’s Perspective,” it seems likely that he made an intentional effort to compose in this style: “In student church positions during my college and graduate school years, and later in my four full-time music positions, I developed an ever-increasing appreciation for the psalms. . . Metrical psalm tunes were the primary musical vehicles for congregational participation in those early years of my church music leadership” (Hopson, p. 26).
By the time BAYLOR concludes, a melodic arch forms through repetition of the opening phrase. The result is an ABCA structure, which helps to communicate Eliot’s notion of arriving at the same place where one began. Combined with the lyrical progression from penitence to joy and hope, one indeed feels as though one is encountering the A section for the first time. The first and last phrases also favor the tonic, seemingly dancing around the note through neighbor-tone action. Even in the second and third lines, the climactic arrival at the submediant (sixth note of the scale) comes from a stepwise ascent from the tonic and subsequent descent back to it. In this way, BAYLOR maintains a strong sense of leaving and returning to a musical “home.” That home becomes metaphorically significant when one sings of restoring God’s image in human hearts so that God can once again dwell there. Given these appealing links between text and tune, it might surprise readers to find that Hopson first wrote BAYLOR as a musical setting of “Be Gracious to Me, Lord” by Church of England minister Michael Perry (1942–1996) (Daw, 2016, p. 438). Perry’s text and Hopson’s tune do not appear together in any published materials.
“Restore in Us, O God” appears with BAYLOR in both Glory to God (2013) and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006). Daw recommends an instrumental interlude to encourage congregational reflection on the textual themes of confession, forgiveness, and grace (2016, p. 439). The brevity of the hymn allows for an interlude without drastically lengthening a service. Instrumentally speaking, Daw suggests the use of a solo instrument, such as an oboe or clarinet, to reinforce the melody, while a guitar or other instrument establishes a harmonic foundation. Notably, in the case of guitar, Daw recommends arpeggiation rather than strumming to create a somber, reflective atmosphere (Daw, 2016, p. 439). Although the text is most compatible with the fifth Sunday of Lent, “Restore in Us, O God” would be appropriate throughout the entire Lenten season. Leaders might even introduce the first stanza at the beginning of Lent and progressively add stanzas in subsequent weeks, thus compounding the sense of pilgrimage already evident in the text and tune.
Carl P. Daw Jr. A Year of Grace: Hymns for the Church Year (Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Company, 1990).
_____, Glory to God: A Companion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016).
Hal H. Hopson, “Singing the Psalms: A Composer and Church Musician’s Perspective,” Liturgy 27, no. 3 (2012): 23–28.
Paul Westermeyer, Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2010).
James F. White, Documents of Christian Worship: Descriptive and Interpretive Sources (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992).
Mykayla Turner holds a Master of Sacred Music with a Liturgical Musicology concentration. She recently obtained her A.C.C.M. in Piano Performance from Conservatory Canada, and she is currently completing a Master of Theological Studies. Mykayla has presented research at conferences in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Apart from her academic work, she is an active church musician and liturgist. She works as a worship coordinator for a Mennonite congregation in rural Ontario.