“Fill My Cup, Lord”/“Like the Woman at the Well”

Hymn Study

TITLE: "Fill My Cup, Lord"/"Like the Woman at the Well"
AUTHOR: Richard E. Blanchard (March 14, 1925 — April 19, 2004)
TUNE: FILL MY CUP
COMPOSER: Richard E. Blanchard
SOURCE: United Methodist Hymnal (1989), no. 641 (refrain only)
SOURCE: Worship & Song (2011), no. 3093 (complete)
SCRIPTURE: John 4:1-42; John 4:14; John 6:35; Psalm 23:5b
TOPICAL: forgiveness; healing; wholeness; restoration; Holy Communion

About the Hymn

There are two versions of this hymn in our songbooks. The United Methodist Hymnal contains only the refrain and often serves as a choral or congregational chorus or response sung during Holy Communion. The refrain is a prayer that Jesus will quench the thirst and fill the hunger of our souls with the cup and bread, fill us and make us whole.

The complete three-stanza version in Worship & Song places the refrain, not as a Communion response, but in its full biblical context of the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. In this larger context, the hymn becomes a song of forgiveness, healing, and restoration. The stanzas speak to the need of the individual and the world to seek and find, not the passing pleasures of daily living, but rather the blessing and fullness of life in Christ.

Publication of the refrain in the United Methodist Hymnal in 1989 introduced the chorus to many United Methodists, and it rapidly became a favorite. Blanchard always regretted that the hymnal did not include the complete version; and following his death in 2004, his wife and many friends from churches he had served frequently requested the complete version be included in the next United Methodist hymnal or songbook. The requests turned into a quite successful petition drive, culminating in the inclusion of the complete version in Worship & Song.

Note that the United Methodist Hymnal version (with guitar chords) is in the key of Bb while Worship & Song is in the lower key of Ab.

Historical

Richard Blanchard was born March 14, 1925, in Chungking, China, the son of Methodist missionary parents, the Rev. Ralph and Grace Kipka Blanchard. The family returned to the USA, and Richard grew up in Indiana and North Carolina. He graduated from Tryon High School in North Carolina in 1943 and worked at a bank in his home town. He put his income into war bonds, eventually saving enough to buy lakefront property in Orlando, Florida, in 1953.

He enlisted in the U.S. Navy but was medically discharged. He attended Davidson College, then Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, earning a bachelor of arts in 1947. He married Anne Carlton, and they had three children. Following Mercer, Richard attended Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta and earned a bachelor of divinity degree in 1949. He was ordained deacon in 1949 and elder in 1950, and transferred from serving his Snellville-Grayson, North Georgia, circuit into the Florida Conference in 1950. As a member of the Florida Conference, Blanchard served First Methodist in Orlando, Wesley in Coral Gables, First Methodist in Fort Lauderdale, Trinity in Miami, Palma Ceja in Tampa, First in Jacksonville, Riviera Beach Methodist, Community Methodist in Holiday, and Conway Methodist in Orlando. He retired in 1988 and became active at First UMC in Orlando. During this time, he wrote a musical, Francis of Assisi, which was produced to favorable reviews and attendance.

Richard Blanchard wrote many gospel songs, as well as newspaper columns, stories, fiction, and the official biography of Bishop John Branscomb, for whom the Branscomb Memorial Auditorium in Lakeland, Florida, is named.

Hymnal editor Carlton Young writes that Blanchard composed "Fill My Cup, Lord" in 1952 in a Sunday school room while waiting for a couple who were late for their marriage counseling session. While waiting, Blanchard sat down at the piano and completed the song in about thirty minutes.

In the year 2000, in seriously declining health, he and his wife moved to Swannanoa, North Carolina, to be near children. He lived there until his death on April 19, 2004. He is survived by his wife, Anne Carlton and two of their children.

"Fill My Cup, Lord" has been recorded by George Beverly Shea, Norma Zimmer, and Anita Bryant, among many others. It has been used as a theme song by Church Women United. His widow, Anne, writes, "Dick received hundreds of bulletins from churches across the country or programs of funerals where 'Fill My Cup, Lord' was sung."

Sources

  • McIntyre, Dean. Private correspondence and interview with Anne Carlton Blanchard, 2005, 2011.
  • Young, Carlton. Companion to The United Methodist Hymnal. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.

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Categories: Hymn Studies, Worship

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