Home History of Hymns: "All Who Love and Serve Your City"

History of Hymns: "All Who Love and Serve Your City"

“All Who Love and Serve Your City”
Erik Routley
UM Hymnal, No. 433

C. Michael Hawn



All who love and serve your city,
All who bear its daily stress,
All who cry for peace and justice,
All who curse and all who bless.*


If we listed the guiding lights of classical hymnody in the last half of the 20th century, without a doubt, many people would rank Erik Routley (1917-1982) at the top. There is no doubt that he was one of the most well-rounded churchmen, church musicians and scholars of his era.

Routley was born in Brighton, Sussex, England and died in Nashville, Tenn. His education was extensive including the following: Lancing College, Sussex (1931), Magdalen College, Oxford (B.A. 1936), Mansfield College, Oxford (1939) and Oxford University (B.A. 1940, B.D. 1946, Ph.D. 1952).

He served as a pastor of two Congregational churches, a tutor at Mansfield College, lecturer in church history, chaplain, librarian and director of music. Routley came to the United States in 1972 as a visiting professor at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, N.J. In 1975 he joined the faculty of the Choir College, serving with distinction as a professor of church music and director of the chapel until his death in 1982.

The Rev. Carlton Young, editor of the UM Hymnal, was a close friend and host for Routley in Nashville at the time of his death. He notes that, “Routley was considered the most influential hymnologist of his generation.”

Routley’s influential books on church music are numerous. A few of the titles give some idea of the scope of his prolific scholarship: The Church and Music (1950), The English Carol (1958), Church Music and Theology (1959), Music Sacred and Profane (1960), Hymns Today and Tomorrow (1964), Exploring the Psalms (1975) and his final volume published posthumously, Christian Hymns Observed (1982). Dr. Young describes the last publication as “an eloquent and characteristically opinionated history of congregational song.”

Dr. Young edited a volume of Routley’s hymn tunes and texts entitled Our Lives Be Praise: The Hymn Tunes, Carols and Texts of Erik Routley (1990). This collection contains 114 hymn tune settings and 32 hymn texts.

“All Who Love and Serve Your City” (1969) follows in a line of important hymns about ministry in the urban context following the Industrial Revolution. Two familiar predecessors of our hymn include “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” (1879) by Washington Gladden (UM Hymnal, No. 430) and “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life” (1903) by Methodist churchman Frank Mason North (UM Hymnal, No. 427).

These hymns were inspired in part by the social gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918). Rauschenbusch believed that the kingdom of God should be advanced not by evangelistic preaching of the revivals of this era, but by becoming more Christ-like. He believed that we could experience heaven on earth by loving our neighbors and creating healthy social conditions, meeting the needs of the poor.

Our text was written for a historic (from a hymnological perspective) gathering in Dunblane, Scotland in 1966 where composers of texts and tunes assembled to write new compositions for congregational singing. Routley had intended to compose a tune, but instead was inspired to write a text to a tune by fellow Englishman Peter Cutts (b. 1937).

Routley noted, “The contrast between the peacefulness of the Scottish country town [of Dunblane] and the conditions of the cities in America and elsewhere evoked this text.” It was published in the second collection to result from the gathering, Dunblane Praises II (1967).

Episcopal hymn scholar Ray Glover notes, “The poet sees the city as a place over which the Risen Lord reigns as Judge and Glory. He challenges the city dweller, in the midst of strife and stress, to seek the Lord, the source of life. Though surrounded by ‘wealth and plenty, wasted work and wasted play,’ he reminds us that, in the words of Jesus, ‘I must work while it is day.’”

* © 1969 by Galliard, Ltd. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU.