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“Father, We Have Heard You Calling”

TITLE: "Father, We Have Heard You Calling"
AUTHOR: Gareth Hill
TUNE: HYFRYDOL
COMPOSER: Rowland H. Prichard
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3150 SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 12:1-2; 13:15 TOPICS: brokenness; calling; devotion; doubt; Doxology; eternity; fire; flame; freedom; God the Father; God the Son; God the Holy Spirit; grace; home; liberation; praise; thanksgiving; transformation; Trinity; unity; witness; worship

Background

Gareth Hill was born in Pontypool in South Wales on September 7, 1956. He grew up and attended school in the Pontypool area, leaving school in 1973 at age 17 to start work as a reporter with his local newspaper. It was here that his love of words developed. At the same time, he began playing guitar because the local church youth group had no musicians; this developed into writing hymns and songs for the church to use. For more than 25 years, he worked in journalism, with two years as a sports writer. In 1992 he established a successful journalism training program at Cornwall College, giving more than 450 people a start in the media industry.

Hill had been a preacher from the age of 17. During the early 1990s, he sensed a call from God to the Methodist ministry. After selection and training, he began work in 1999 as a minister in Camborne in the United Kingdom and was ordained at the Royal Hospitals School outside Ipswich in 2001. That year, he moved to live in Wadebridge, and -- during his seven years in North Cornwall -- he pioneered the Tubestation project at Polzeath. At this surf church, a beachside chapel replaced the pulpit with a skateboard ramp. The church installed a coffee bar and wi-fi internet and began outreach to surfers and those on the edge of traditional church. In the summer of 2008, Hill moved to Truro to become a pioneer minister, working in a Fresh Expressions project. His role there was to work with people on the fringes of church, using house groups and the Internet to encourage them toward faith. The project also developed into involvement with the village panto society, with Hill playing a vampire and the Wizard of Oz! Other unusual ways of helping people explore faith included a local pub quiz and a Lent film group that met in a local pub. Hill has also been appointed as an Associate Missioner with the joint Methodist-Anglican Fresh Expressions project. He still plays guitar and leads worship as part of the band, GraceNotes. In 2007 he was named as one of the BBC Radio 2 and Local Radio hymn writers of the year for the hymn "Dear Lord, Where Are the Signs of Hope?"

Hill, a passionate Welshman, says: "I love hymns, especially the rich harmonies that I remember from my chapel upbringing. I become very emotional when I hear great crowds singing hymns like Cwm Rhondda, especially victorious Welsh rugby congregations! But I am also a child of the 1970s – those were my teenage years - and love the pop music of that era. It's been a constant source of amazement that many parts of the Church think they can ignore pop culture – music, films, books – and still be surprised when people under 55 don't want to know about church. There is a black hole in the European Christian Church that largely equates to the rock'n'roll generation: those who would have bought hit singles as a teenager. Perhaps what I write will make virtually no difference, but I have to keep trying to speak both to people who think in traditional music terms and to those who like more contemporary worship."

Rowland H. Prichard (1811-1887) was also a Welshman, born in Graienyn, North Wales. Prichard was an amateur precentor who composed and published a number of tunes in Welsh periodicals. (Note: A precentor is one who facilitates worship, the word derived from the more familiar word, cantor, meaning "the one who sings before" or "first singer." In Britain, a precentor directs the music and choral services in a cathedral or in a monastery.) In the Welsh language, hyfrydol literally means pleasant, melodious; it is pronounced hoo-froo'-dle. Prichard composed the tune at age 19 in 1830 and first published it in his 1844 songbook, Cyfaill y Cantorion (The Singer's Friend), a Welsh collection published "for the use of the Sunday Schools, to wean them from 'empty and defiling songs' to those that are devotional and moral." (Alan Luff, Welsh Hymns and Their Tunes, 1990, pg. 177). The harmonization in most hymnals is the one used in the 1906 The English Hymnal. The tune first entered our official USA hymnals in the 1935 Methodist Hymnal.

Words

The text, composed in 2005, is closely tied to the "great cloud of witnesses" that surrounds us in the present and to Jesus, "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith," now sitting "at the right hand of the throne of God" passage in Hebrews. It has a Trinitarian structure with the first three stanzas devoted to a different person of the Trinity, stanza four concluding with a Doxology. Each stanza concludes with a lead in to our petition as response "to be one in love and one in worship, children of eternity."

Stanza One: God the Father calls the church in every age to devotion and a "sacrifice of praise."

Stanza Two: Jesus, God the Son, is our faith's perfecter, our priest and advocate. We strive to take Christ's truth and love to the nation, our "feeble witness" transformed by Christ.

Stanza Three: A prayer that God the Spirit will fall upon us as upon the early church, bringing release, tears, passion, transformation and grace.

Stanza Four: A classic Trinitarian Doxology of praise.

Music

The HYFRYDOL tune is in 87.87D meter with an AABC structure. One of the remarkable features of this tune is that its quite limited range serves the text well while not calling attention to itself. With the exception of a single note in the climax at the end, the entire tune is contained within the interval of only a fifth. There is a dignity and strength about HYFRYDOL with its arch forms, short melodic sequences, and its measured tempo that consists of mostly quarter notes. HYFRYDOL is often used with the familiar Charles Wesley text, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," and Wesley's great Advent hymn, "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus."

Sources

See more Hymn Studies.

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