As I enter my sixth week of sheltering in place, I find myself turning more and more to music to help get me through. For me this has meant digging out solo piano music and seriously practicing for the first time in many years. It has been healing and calming to immerse myself in the music of great composers, particularly that of Bach. His music is both logical and emotional, and it steadies me in my day.
I’m sure you all have musical favorites that have been a support at this time, be they classical, rock, country or Broadway show tunes! But one thing that unites us is the musical language of the hymnbook. Many of you have reached out to me to say that the hymn paraphrases I’ve been playing are very meaningful to you. I have been trying to stick to familiar hymns, ones that we grew up hearing and that are deeply embedded in our souls. I’ve spoken before about how hymns are a way of connecting us to the Christian community of earlier times. The writers of our hymns faced challenges as difficult, confusing and frightening as the one that faces us now.
Consider the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”. It was written by German pastor Martin Rinkart, who served in the walled city of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years War of 1618-48. As the war raged across the countryside, the city became a haven for refugees fleeing destruction. But the overcrowded city became a breeding ground for disease, leading to the Great Pestilence of 1637. One of the four ministers in Eilenburg fled the city, and two others died. Only Rinkart was left to carry on, ministering to the sick and hungry, and often conducting as many as 40 funerals a day. One of the 4500 funerals he conducted during those times was that of his own wife. Such circumstances might reasonably test anyone’s faith. But instead of despairing, he was moved to compose a song of gratitude and praise for his children.
- Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices
- Who wondrous things hath done, in whom this world rejoices.
- Who, from our mothers’ arms, hath blessed us on our way
- With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
May we all continue to trust and let our own songs of gratitude and praise ring out!
Janet Montroy, Director of Music