Author: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
AURELIA 18.104.22.168 D (“The Church’s One Foundation”)
In times of great decision, Be with us, God, we pray!
Give each of us a vision Of Jesus’ loving way.
When louder words seem endless And other voices sure,
Remind us of your promise: Your love and truth endure.
O God, whose gifts are countless, You send us bearing peace.
You fill our dreams with justice For all communities.
You give us global neighbors, That all may justly live.
May those we choose as leaders Reflect the life you give.
O God, you bridged the distance; You opened wide your door.
You call us by our presence To reach to serve the poor.
You teach us: Welcome strangers! Seek justice on the earth!
May those we choose as leaders See every person’s worth.
You call on every nation To put aside all greed,
To care for your creation And for your ones in need,
To care for those in prison, For children, for the ill.
In times of great decision, may we choose leaders well.
This great hymn is set to the tune of AURELIA 22.214.171.124 D (“The Church’s One Foundation”). It was inspired by the great political decision that the State of America was going through in 2004. On October 19, 2004, NEW YORK CITY – The National Council of Churches’ “Christian Principles in an Election Year” inspired a new hymn – “In Times of Great Decision,” by the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. It is election time in Zambia and as usual so many politically inclined comments have been made. I have noted the unpalatable language flying around. As I meditate on these events, a hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette came to mind. In Times of Great Decision. Indeed for the nation of Zambia undergoing an election of a Jubilee President, it is a great decision.
The Hymn Story
It was on October 19, 2004, in New York City that, this hymn got its inspiration. It was written by Rev. Gillette and her husband, Rev. Bruce Gillette. Both are co-pastors of Limestone Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware, where they moved after years of service together at the First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, N.J.
“Bruce found the principles of this hymn on the Web, and this is what he said in an interview about this hymn.
‘You know what? This would make a really neat hymn,” said the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. She agreed, commenting, “The principles are very biblical, and express the faith we believe, have passed down and try to follow. And they bring focus to what we feel is important in this election.
“Some people say we should separate the ‘political’ and ‘religious’ sides of life, but I believe we are supposed to carry our faith convictions into the way we vote and the way we choose our leaders,” she said.
The National Council of Churches’ “Christian Principles in an Election Year” seek to apply well-established ecumenical principles to both domestic and foreign policy issues, and try to address issues of war, poverty, immigration, education, health care, racial justice, distress in U.S. inner cities and rural communities, the environment and the criminal justice system.
They normally urge domestic policies that build “communities shaped by peace and cooperation” and a foreign policy “based on cooperation and global justice.” In so doing, the NCC says it hopes all persons of faith – whether liberal or conservative in their views – can study the principles and use them as they evaluate candidates for public office.
This is what The Rev. Gillette said when writing the hymn. Gillette enjoyed taking the 10 principles that were written to speak more to the “head” – and capturing their essence in a four-verse hymn.
“When you write a hymn, you have to think a little differently and use phrases that speak more to the heart,” she said. “To me, a hymn is always a prayer. It can have depth, content and theological integrity, but it is always a prayer.”
Many churches have used the Rev. Gillette’s hymns. “O God, Our Words Cannot Express”, a hymn she wrote on September 11, 2001, which was used by thousands of churches, featured on national PBS-TV in the United States and the BBC-TV in the United Kingdom, and made into a music video by Noel Paul Stookey of “Peter, Paul and Mary” and Emmy-winner Pete Staman. Church World Service, the humanitarian agency, has a Web page with links to postings of 15 of her hymns. She was commissioned to write a hymn for the inauguration service for Churches Uniting in Christ.
Source: Songs of Grace: new hymns for God and neighbor #56a