For Everyone Born – a problematic hymn

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while.  I went to the first new PC(USA) hymnal launch event in Pennsylvania last fall, and I’ve heard this hymn sung MANY times – at Field Ed, at General Assembly, at Princeton Seminary many times in chapel, at the Worship and Music conference.  This hymn is quickly becoming a favorite of churches and seminaries.

It’s catchy.  It’s easy to sing.  It has a central message of unity, though it stumbles with some equality concepts.  The refrain is really pretty and mentions all sorts of good things.

But it has a problem.  Several problems really, but I’m going to concentrate on one.  This problem has been pointed out to me by several friends.

Recently I’ve been noticing a pattern among my friends – primarily my female friends and close relatives.  I’m becoming increasingly alarmed at how many have been abused – usually physically or sexually.  It’s not that far from the truth to say that all adult women that I know well enough to have heard such stories have experienced some form of sexual or physical abuse.  Or controlling behavior.  ALL of them.  Some more than once.  I’m alarmed, and trying to figure out what to do with the anger.

For these friends (and certainly others), verse 4 of For Everyone Born is a problem.  Here’s the verse:

For just and unjust, a place at the table,
abuser, abused, with need to forgive,
in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy,
for just and unjust, a new way to live,
(Copyright 1998, Hope Publishing)

At a first glance it seems pretty benign – that abuser and abused should be able to participate in the church and Eucharist equally.  We truly believe that.  It’s not really a problem.

But then you read it again.  And you notice that the injunctions are all against the abused.  The abused has a need to forgive.  (What does the abuser have to forgive?)  The abused is called to have a mindset of mercy.

And worst of all – the abused is expected to be at the same table as the abuser.  THIS is psychologically damaging for everybody that has talked to me about this.  The idea of sitting at a table, a Holy Table, with one’s abuser is painful.  It causes panic attacks.  It causes anger.  One friend felt a call to walk out of a service in the middle of the hymn (though she didn’t).  This verse of this hymn turns our sanctuaries from places of safety to places of danger.  Danger in the triggering of abuse victims, and danger in the very real implication of sharing space with their abuser.

This becomes even more insidious when the abuser is a family member or significant other.  People who have suffered abuse have it repeated again through family pressures.  Family members urge or even demand that they reconcile with their abuser (often without knowledge of the abuse) “for the good of the family.”  The abused person becomes the problem in that they split the family, rather than having the responsibility for the split properly lodged with the abuser.  Some people continue years later to have nightmares about the abuser and the abuse, and this demand in this hymn can bring up all of that again.

The refrain calls on us to create justice, compassion and peace:

and God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
yes, God will delight when we are creators
of justice, justice and joy!

I question whether any of these are possible when calling for abuser and abused to be in the same place.  The abused will not feel justice.  They will not feel compassion – they will feel the opposite.  They clearly will not feel peace, or joy.

I doubt that the hymn’s author intended to make this statement.  Still, the verse remains imbalanced.  Some call for repentance and reparation might balance it.  But perhaps it would be better just to leave it out.  When this hymn was sung as the Class Hymn at my Princeton Seminary graduation last May I chose not to sing this verse.  I almost sat down for the verse, but I was in a place where that would have been difficult and nobody would have understood what I was doing anyway.

So if you want to use this hymn, please consider skipping verse 4.  Or consider skipping the hymn entirely – there are other hymns that say the same thing without triggering the many (many more than you realize) victims of abuse.  Or at least know that you may have some work to do after it is sung.

Job Opening – Assoc. Pastor for Youth and Worship – Lawrenceville, NJ

March 3, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Religion, Work, Young Adult, Youth 

My congregation has an opening for an Associate Pastor.  The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PC(USA)) and is part of the Presbytery of New Brunswick.  Information on our congregation can be found at the church website and the PC(USA) statistics page for the congregation.

DISCLAIMER – my role.  I am a Deacon among my roles at the church, and I served as the Chair of the Mission Study team which completed its work prior to the creation of the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee.  I do not serve on the APNC, but have been asked by them to help advertise the position.  I will be happy to answer what questions that I can via any communications method including in person.  The APNC requests that specific questions about the position be directed to them – specifically to Thomas as listed below.

Position Description

Associate Pastor for Youth, Young Adult and Worship Ministries

The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ

CIF ID #04928.AEO

Contact: Thomas Emerick, APNC Chair: thomas744@mac.com

Fulltime Position, intended to begin September 2011
Reports to: Pastor, Head of Staff

Responsibilities include:

Youth and Young Adult:

  • Overseeing the administration and execution of programs offered to 6th to 12th graders, College students, other “college” age youth and young adults at The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, aimed at spiritual and faith development.
  • Supervising the Seminary Intern for Youth Ministry (10-15 hours per week/School Year)
  • Training, equipping, coordinating and encouraging lay leaders and parents is a primary means for providing ministry to and with youth
    • Conducting regular (up to bi-monthly) leadership meetings
    • Providing staff support for Youth Ministry Council
    • Facilitating youth participation in the leadership of the program
    • Providing programs that include parents in youth ministry
    • Teaching and equipping lay teachers to provide educational experiences for youth.
    • Working closely with a Session member liaison to youth ministry
  • Planning for, and coordinating the Confirmation experience for confirmation-age youth (currently 9th grade) and Mentors.
  • In coordination with Assistant Youth Ministry Director and Seminary Intern, coordinate and provide leadership for weekend retreats, outings and events
  • In coordination with Assistant Youth Ministry Director, plan and provide opportunities for mission experiences locally, regionally, nationally and internationally for all youth, which includes Summer Mission experiences.
  • Participating in the Presbytery Youth Connection
  • Providing consistent and clear communication and publicity about all activities.
  • Developing and utilizing computer technology (e.g. website, email, etc.) in the publicity and promotion of the youth program.

Worship – Worship in a New Key:

  • Work with Head of Staff and other staff on developing and planning for all aspects of WINK, including scheduling worship leaders, preachers, planning liturgy, etc.
  • Provide primary preaching and sacramental leadership for WINK, by preaching/presiding once per month (minimum), and coordinating a rotation of other clergy to fulfill these roles.
  • Work with WINK Music Coordinator, and WINK Planning Team, on weekly planning, as well as long-term, strategic planning for WINK service.
  • Preach monthly at WINK service, and at least twice per year at traditional service.

Young Adult:

  • Maintaining significant contact with young adult members of the church who are in college, the military, in the workplace or have just graduated from college.
  • Providing programming, such as Bible Study and fellowship gatherings, for Young Adult members and non-members of the church.

General:

  • Participation in weekly staff meetings
  • At least monthly supervision with Head-of-Staff

 

A Great Sunday, part 1

January 28, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Yesterday, the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville held “Levi Sunday”.

The name is a reference to the Levites, and also a sign that we were encouraged to wear jeans (brand not important).  The keyword for the day was service.

We started in the sanctuary for worship.  It started normally, and this week had the choir out of the loft and in front of us along with the children’s choir.  The readings were from Numbers 8 (we left out the bit about the bull) and James on good works.  The sermon was a quick tag-team conversation by both pastors.

When we reached the offering, the service relocated.  All of us were asked to put our paper offerings in the plate as we exited the sanctuary to head for multiple parts of the church to do service projects.  When we came in before the worship service we were each given a name tag with a color on it.  The colors separated us into our tasks.  One group assembled hygiene kits for Crisis Ministry of Trenton and Princeton.  Another group made Baby Kits for Church World Service and yet another group made School Kits for them – these are to be used in disaster areas.  Yet another group (mine) assembled bag lunches for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.  We were given worksheets to complete if we had time after the tasks.

When all were done, the congregation reassembled in the Fellowship Hall and concluded the service with a hymn, the Benediction, and a Choral Amen.  Then everybody had lunch – 6 foot hoagies and chips and dessert.

Chaos and order were clearly in tension as the tasks were completed.  In the lunch assembly room we had more people than we could possibly use, and ended up with each person building a lunch piece by piece or making sandwiches while another group formed an assembly line.  In about 20 minutes we assembled over 100 lunches using something like 30-40 people.

I also think everybody got the messages.  We are saved through faith but good works are also important.  Good works are the offering that we make in thanks for grace.

Our congregation is really good at mission.  We send lots of money out into the world to do good things.  We send lots of people out to do good things – disaster relief, service in the community and beyond.  This day linked that service to our beliefs.  I believe that I said something about our youth in a meeting recently – they know (and do) the right thing to do, but they’re a little fuzzy on the reason why.  I think the whole congregation is sometimes a little fuzzy too.  This helped.

Church: Getting your money’s worth

September 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

This Sunday the congregants at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville experienced a trifecta of worship events.

It started with a 5 minute plus speech by a member of the Stewardship committee.

Later we followed that up with a baptism.

After the sermon, we had ordination and installations.  One elder was recently elected to fill the term of a brand new elder who had to move for his job.  Two deacons had been unable to attend the ordination and installation the week after the election back in June – one had to be ordained.

Then after the offering we had the commissioning of the Hearts and Hands team.

The staff managed to keep the total time to 1 hour 15 minutes through the creative use of short hymns and short prayers.

After the service a number of us were joking about how we should have added Communion and a Wedding to the service.

In other news:  tonight is the first meeting of the Welcome and Outreach Task Force that I’m co-chairing.  I have all handouts copied, and I’m just about to send a reminder e-mail.  Wish me luck!

Rhythm for the Soul – Jazz Vespers, dinner, and a mini-concert

September 20, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Music, Religion 

On Sunday, September 30, 2007, the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville will be holding its first Jazz Vespers service.  A flyer can be found HERE.

The evening kicks off at 4pm with the jazz vespers service.  Dinner follows at 5pm ($5 donation requested).  After dinner there will be a mini-concert at 6pm.  The Rev. Bill Carter and Presbybop will be the performers for the concert and will be featured in the service.  Presbybop is a jazz quarter made up entirely by Presbyterian clergy.

All are welcome.  Come on down!