History of Hymns: "We All Are One in Mission"
"We All Are One in Mission"
The Faith We Sing, No. 2243
“We all are one in mission;
we all are one in call,
our varied gifts united
by Christ, the Lord of all.
A single great commission
compels us from above
to plan and work together
that all may know Christ’s love.”*
The word “mission” often communicates a 19th-century vision of missionaries heading to foreign lands, wafted on their way on the strains of congregations singing “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations.” Mission, however, is the work of the entire body of Christ.
Rusty Edwards (b. 1955) provides Christians with a hymn that articulates a contemporary vision of the mission of the church. He was born in Dixon, Ill. Following graduation from Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Nebraska, Dr. Edwards taught school at St. Boniface in Elgin, Neb.
His theological education includes a master of divinity degree from Luther Northwestern Seminary (now Luther Seminary), a doctorate in creative ministry from the Graduate Theological Foundation at Notre Dame, Ind., and a certificate from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest.
Following his ordination in 1985, he served Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Moline, Ill., until 1991. He currently serves as senior pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Rockford, Ill. He is also the pastoral advisor for Rockford Lutheran High School and is on the board of the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity.
“We All Are One in Mission” was written in 1985. Stanza one expresses the unity of the church, united around “a single, great commission.” Though we have varied gifts, we are “united by Christ, the Lord of all.”
“We all are called to service” is the theme of stanza two. Our service is a “witness in God’s name.” Through our varied ministries, we “touch the lives of others” as they experience “God’s surprising grace” and, through us, “God’s warm embrace.”
Stanza three calls for a unified vision focusing on the “steward of salvation [who] was nailed upon a tree.” The resurrected Christ unifies the vision of the church. The author employs a powerful image of “resurrected Justice” that allows us to “share free reconciliation and hope amid despair.”
The final stanza exhorts the church to “be united and let our song be heard.” We are called to “be a vessel for God’s redeeming Word.”
The unity of the church, local and universal, is at the heart of this hymn. It is not the responsibility of only missionaries or ordained clergy to practice mission in all of its forms, but is integral to the service of all in the church who are united by Christ and have a sense of his “resurrected Justice.”
“We All Are One in Mission” is found in Dr. Edwards’ first collection of hymns, The Yes of the Heart: Faith, Hope and Love Songs (Hope Publishing Co., 1993), as well as in numerous recent hymnals. It is the most published of his hymns, appearing in over two dozen collections and hymnals, and according to the author is “rather unique, because it has been published with 10 different tunes.”
Dr. Edwards’ hymns have been published by 30 denominations in Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland and the United States. His most recent collections include As Sunshine to a Garden: Hymns and Songs (Augsburg, 1999), Each Breath, Every Heartbeat (Abingdon, 2004) and Bidden, Unbidden (Abingdon, 2007).