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“Bidden, Unbidden”

TITLE: "Bidden, Unbidden"
AUTHORS: Jenni Lee Boyden and Howard M. (Rusty) Edwards, III
COMPOSER: Howard M. (Rusty) Edwards, III
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3019
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 139
TOPICS: bid/bidding; cry/cry out; forget; God’s goodness; loneliness; name of God; prayer; righteousness; shame; silence; solitude

Rusty Edwards


Jenni Lee Boyden, co-author of "Bidden, Unbidden," is Director of Christian Education at Christ Episcopal Church in Pensacola, Florida. An accomplished poet and hymn text writer, she collaborated with Rusty Edwards on Bidden, Unbidden, a collection of hymns published by Abingdon Press in 2007.

Howard M. Edwards, III, (Rusty), was born January 22, 1955, in Dixon, Illinois. He has served as associate pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Moline, Illinois, 1985-91; senior pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Rockford, Illinois, 1991-98; and senior pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Marietta, Georgia, 1998-present. He co-founded Luther Academy, a kindergarten-grade six school that served both the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, while at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. He served as Volunteer Manager of the ELCA Youth Gathering in Atlanta in 2003.

Edwards, ordained in 1985, is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Nebraska. He graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., receiving an M.Div in 1985, going on to earn a D.Min in creative ministry from Graduate Theological Foundation at Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1990. He also holds certificates from Blackstone School of Law at Dallas, Texas; Seminary of the Southwest at Austin, Texas; and Pecos Benedictine School of Spiritual Direction in New Mexico. He was an Oxford Foundation Fellow (U.K.) in 1998, and Visiting Fellow of Seminary of the Southwest in 2004.

Edwards has received fifteen ASCAP Awards and two RAMI Awards. In 2009 the city of Tyler, Texas, held a "Rusty Edwards Hymnwriter Day." He has been named an Honorary Citizen of Austin, Texas, and is a Kentucky Colonel. He and his wife, Lori, are the parents of two sons, Benjamin and Ian.

Edwards' hymns have appeared in 70 books used by 36 denominations in Australia, Canada, China, England, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, and the U.S.A. His hymn collections include:

  • As Sunshine to a Garden
  • Bidden, Unbidden
  • Come, My Chosen
  • Each Breath, Every Heartbeat
  • Grateful Praise
  • The Yes of the Heart

His hymns published in United Methodist collections include:

  • "Bidden, Unbidden" (Worship & Song, 3019)
  • "By Grace We Have Been Saved" (Worship & Song, 3110)
  • "Come, Little Children" (Worship & Song, 3055)
  • Tune, ANNUNCIATION, for "To a Maid Engaged to Joseph" (The United Methodist Hymnal, 215)
  • "We All Are One in Mission" (The Faith We Sing, 2243)


The message of "Bidden, Unbidden" is that whatever our present condition, whatever circumstance life presents us, God is present, in all things, in all times, in all places, never-ending. The hymn describes such circumstances:

  • when we cry out to God, alone, ashamed.
  • when we fail to see God in creation and our surroundings.
  • when we cannot sense God’s presence by sight, sound, or feeling.
  • when we ask for or fail to ask for God’s presence ("bidden, unbidden").

Even in such circumstances, God is present, "always, again and again … forever." And with the Psalmist, "I will sing a word of praise. I will believe you are there!"


The rather unusual meter of the verse’s words allows for three musical phrases in 787 meter, doubled for each verse. Each phrase begins on a successively lower pitch (F, E, D), giving a kind of sequential feeling to the melody. The first three phrases cadence on the dominant harmony, the second three on the tonic.

The refrain consists of two phrases in 10.11 meter, doubled, the first phrase cadencing on the dominant harmony, the second on the tonic to conclude. The refrain’s melody makes effective use of the rising leading tone on "bidden" and "unbidden." This is balanced with the answer in the following phrase, using a similar syncopated melodic and rhythmic pattern, but descending, on "always" and "again."


Internet Articles:

Young, Carlton. Companion to The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993)

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