Home Worship Planning History of Hymns History of Hymns: 'Welcome'

History of Hymns: 'Welcome'

By M. Roger Holland II, Guest Contributor

Mark Miller
Mark Miller

by Mark Miller and Laurie Zelman

Let’s walk together for a while and ask where we begin
to build a world where love can grow and hope and enter in,
to be the hands of healing and to plant the seeds of peace,
Singing welcome, welcome to this place.
You’re invited to come and know God’s grace.
All are welcome, the love of God to share
‘cause all of us are welcome here,
all are welcome in this place.*
*Words and music ©2007 Abingdon Press (Admin. by The Copyright Company, Nashville, TN. All rights reserved.

Mark A. Miller (b. 1967) is one of the most prolific composers of our time, with well over two hundred compositions to his credit, ranging from anthems and other choral works to solo organ pieces and congregational songs. He often composes music to texts relating to inclusivity, social justice, hospitality, welcome, and reconciliation. Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, the pastor of Trinity United Church in Chicago, Illinois, describes Miller as a musical griot. Moss further offers, “The music of Mark Miller becomes a post-modern psalm, soothing the anxious spirits of twenty-first-century pilgrims” (Moss, Foreword, Revolution of the Heart). In addition to his activities as a composer, Miller is a pianist, organist, singer, choral conductor, and educator. Miller is Professor of Church Music, Director of Chapel, and Composer-in-Residence at Drew University. He is also a Lecturer in Sacred Music at Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music and Divinity School, and Minister of Music at Christ Church in Summit, New Jersey.

His hymn “Let’s Walk Together” (2007) highlights the themes of inclusion and hospitality. The text was written by Miller along with longtime collaborator and friend, Laurie Zelman, whom he met while Zelman was a seminary student at Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey (Doerries, Canterbury Dictionary). The three stanzas are anaphoric, each inviting the singer into an act of communal engagement—“Let’s walk together” / “Let’s talk together” / “Let’s dream together.” Biblical allusions throughout allow us to envision the beloved community (Rom 12:9–21; John 13:34–35; Acts 11:1–18).

Stanza 1 invites us to partner in the work of creating the beloved community. The last line of stanza 3 echoes James 3:18 where the biblical writer admonishes his audience to use heavenly wisdom to “plant seeds of peace,” thereby harvesting justice (James 3:18 CEV). Stanza 2 alludes to the heavenly banquet, the Eucharistic meal, one where God invites all to partake of this life-giving food. Where Zelman writes that “joy will set the table” in this stanza, one may be led to recall the words of the psalmist in Psalm 23:5—“You prepare a table before me.” Especially poignant in this stanza is the imagery of the Last Supper, particularly as depicted in John’s Gospel where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples (John 13:1–17). This instructive act illustrates the servant-leader model, “where pride and power kneel to serve the lonely and the least.” The third and final stanza illustrates a vision of the beloved community, much like the final book of the Bible, Revelation, which also describes the new Jerusalem, a holy city (Rev 21:1–2). In this stanza, the singer is drawn into a world of unity, love, light, and joy, “where mourning turns to dancing,” a scriptural reference to Psalm 31, verse eleven.

The hymn was originally published as a choral anthem in 2007 by Abingdon Press under the title “Welcome” in their Mark Miller Anthem Series and in a congregational version in For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church (General Board of Global Ministries, 2008). More recently, the hymn has appeared in Worship and Song (Abingdon Press, 2011) and Voices Together (Harrisonburg, PA, 2020). It was sung at the gathering of the Eleventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2022. In its dedication, Miller acknowledges friend Jeff Spelman, whose work in the church models hospitality and inclusion.


Doerries, Hillary. “Mark Miller.” The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press, http://www.hymnology.co.uk/m/mark-miller (accessed January 4, 2024).

Mark Miller in Concert in Oklahoma City, October 2023 (cue to @ 7:20). https://youtu.be/tcdGbYIlMYg?si=gGItyh5h84OuPVtd&t=449 (accessed January 18, 2024).

Moss III, Otis. 2020. “Foreword” in Revolution of the Heart: Songs by Mark A. Miller. Chicago, Illinois: GIA Publications, Inc.

M. Roger Holland II is a Teaching Associate Professor in Music and Religion and Director of The Spirituals Project at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver. He is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary (New York City), Manhattan School of Music, and Westminster Choir College. He served as Artist-in-Residence and director of the Union (Seminary) Gospel Choir for over thirteen years. Currently, he is a candidate in the Doctor of Pastoral Music program, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, where he studied hymnology with Dr. C. Michael Hawn.

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