Sunday, November 04, 2007

I Sing a Song of the Saints of God

Any Episcopalians out there? I don't know if this hymn is in other church hymnals, but it's in the Episcopal hymnal, and we sang it today to celebrate All Saints' Day. Yah, Yah, I know, All Saints' Day is the day after Halloween, but that was Thursday and today is Sunday. I managed to make it to church this morning cuz of a little thing called Daylight Saving Times so I woke up in time. After nearly 50 years of going to church at 10 o'clock, I am in a town where the Episcopal service starts at 9, and for some piss poor reason, I just can't seem to get my act together for that time slot. But today I did, and I'm glad I did.

I grew up a poor black child in Mississippi... oh sorry. Seriously, I grew up a poor redheaded child in a small town in mid-Missouri with a 3 big sisters and a single (albeit exhausted, overworked, lonely, chemically dependent, neglectful) mother. School and church were our refuge. I never missed a day of either in 18 years. Seriously. Although they provided me time away from my home (and my crazy catatonic mother), soon both became my solace, my peace, my joy. I was a member of the junior choir, and I have many wonderful memories singing at the top of my lungs every Thursday and the occasional Sunday. (High school choir took over where church choir ended and filled my heart with even greater joy because of the wonderful Carl Burkel.) But I digress. Whenever I hear a hymn from my childhood (and the hymnbook changed in 1979 so they aren't always readily sung as much as they once were), I am filled with wonderful memories, smiles and joy that fill my heart. Today was such a day as we sang "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God." This song will mean nothing to you if you didn't grow up with it, but it means so much to me now (as it did then). It conveys the message that you don't have to die to be a saint. You don't have to be a hero. You don't even have to sacrifice to be a saint. You can be a saint of God in your lifetime. We know many, don't we, who fill this role.
        I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.

They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.
Some of the lines made me giggle as a kid, like "slain by a fierce wild beast," which gave me the vision of King Arthur. And I truly never met a "shepherdess on the green." But the song, to this day, makes me happy.

And I thought I would share it with you. I hope this All Saints' Day, you are thinking of those people in your life who have gone before you, who live in the woodwork of your church or your school or your home. Who reside in your heart. Who made you who you are today.



At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I sing a song of the saints of God is a terrific hymn." It makes everyone happy. Apparently, it was almost removed from the Hymnal by General Convention, but its such a sweet little hymn that it was saved. I'm glad you made it church today. There is nothing quite so nice as Episcopal church on All Saints day.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger ~gkw said...

I was bad today... we were playing softball this sunday. Next Sunday we are playing again, but I hope that's it... No more sunday play till next March...

At 9:30 AM, Blogger ~gkw said...

PS... I love that our church sings a lot of the old hymns too...

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Sailor said...

Loved hearing that hymn, on Sunday, isn't it nice to have the Episcopal hymnal?

At 5:10 PM, Anonymous btheatheist said...

This was my favorite song as a young Catholic. We sang it every year as we marched through the cemetary dressed as our patron saints.
I remember a verse, however, that included the line:
"and one was crucified upside down" but I can't seem to find that version anywhere. Does anyone remember it? If so, PLEASE e-mail me the link.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Gee said...

Love that hymn! I grew up singing in the choir in lilly-white Portland, OR and we sang this hymn at St. Bartholomew's in Beaverton , as well as "In Christ there is no East or West". I keep a copy of the 1940 Hymnal on the shelf.

Last All Saints' Day I worshipped at St. James Cathedral in Seattle--and I'm doing my best to be patient and brave and true....and all that!

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Conni said...

I'm working on a sermon for a small UCC church in southwest Missouri. This song has been going through my head all week, just one line, "and I mean, God helping, to be one too." I also remembered "you can meet them...or at tea" which was the version I learned. Thanks for helping jog my memory. I'm going to use this in our service.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Elizabeth Craven said...

Like Conni, my final verse was not the same as the one you posted but I am a cradle Episcopalian. I believe our last verse was,

"They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still. The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus' will. You can meet them in school, or in planes or at sea. You can meet them in church, or in shops or at tea. They are all of them saints, Lord just like me and I mean to be one too."

Hope that helps! Also, the Catholic that sang the verse about being upside down, I believe that was in a hymnal I used as a child but it wasn't a verse we sang... I always thought we just used the 1979 Hymnal (Episcopal) but I could be wrong...

At 4:06 PM, Blogger David said...

Yesterday, 11/21 Palmer Episcipal Church, Houston said a Requiem Eucharist In Celebration and Thanksgiving for the life of my sister Mary. She had requested "I Sing the song of the saints of God" be sung at her funeral service. There is and interesting story that goes behind this request. Mary, a life long Episcipalian and daughter of a remarkable Episcipal priest, at the age of about 6 or 7 years old was taken to see Santa at a major department store in Chicago. Santa asked if she knew a song and Mary, not being a shy person, to Santa's amazement bluted our "I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true... "

This is a wonderful song and one that is especially special to the Episcipal Liturgy.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Rozcat said...

This is my absolutely favorite hymn of all! I grew up at Grace Episcopal Church in Jamaica, NY and love the Episcopal liturgy and music. Although I am now a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Georgia, I love this hymn.


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