1 Come, thou Fount of ev’ry blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace!
Streams of mercy never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise:
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! O fix me on it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
2 Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help, I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home:
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand’ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
3 O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
This piece, Seven Works of Mercy, is found in the DiaLog Hotel in Neuendettelsau, Germany, a business committed to Christian hospitality, sustainability, and apprenticeship and training. It is associated with St. Laurentius church in Neuendettelsau. Based on Matthew 25: 34-46, the acts of mercy are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, cloth the naked, visit the prisoners, heal the sick, and bury the dead. This last work of mercy comes from the Catholic Bible book of Tobit.
Come thou fount of every blessing is a very well-known hymn. In every congregation I’ve been in, it has been a favorite. I’ve chosen it this week because I believe it is a unifying piece that Christians from many backgrounds, languages, races, and denominations. The words I’ve included above are from the African American Heritage Hymnal, compiled by the Rev. Dr. Delores Carpenter, general editor, and Rev. Nolan E. Williams, Jr, musical editor, published in 2001. I also encountered this use of “Ebenezer” in the African American Episcopal Hymnal, LEVAS II. In short, according to Hymnary.org, this song has been published in over 2000 hymnals.
When White American Protestants (of which I am one) think of African American religious music, we all-too-often default to spirituals. I have certainly looked first to spirituals when seeking to broaden representation in the church music I’m programming. But… Black music is more than spirituals. So this week I am presenting this piece written by some very old white guys that is nevertheless beloved and important to generations and generations in many communities. Thus, it has been set by many different composers throughout the years in many styles. Undine Smith Moore wrote the setting I play for you this week.
Undine S. Moore (1904-1989) studied piano, organ, composition, and music education at Fisk, Julliard, Columbia University and Manhattan School of Music. A Black female composer, she had a brilliant and successful career in the face of segregation and American Racism. Vocal music was her preferred medium. I find this setting of Nettleton (the tune name associated with Come, thou fount of every blessing) a beautiful expression of the various emotions evoked in this hymn. We need “streams of mercy” as much as we ever had, and that’s both joyful and gut-wrenching, both of which you can hear in this music.
Black music has not gotten the visibility and attention it has deserved. Or it’s been cornered into just one kind of music (spirituals, or jazz, or blues). But black composers deserve more attention and respect from our society. I will use this blog as a personal challenge to myself to expand my repertoire and knowledge base. Black lives matter. Black music matters. Black moms and dads and babies and futures matter. We in the White American Protestant church need to challenge ourselves to look farther and harder at the music we sing. I hope you enjoy this setting as much as I do.