Community of Christ (StF 681)

Authors & translators:
Murray, Shirley Erena
Country or culture:
Composers & arrangers:
Olivers, Thomas (comp)
Singing the Faith: 681 (CD28 #7)
STF Number:

Ideas for use

This hymn may be sung in a way that reflects the pattern of command and suggested response that is repeated in the first three verses.

The first four lines of verses 1-3 can be read as commands to the community of Christ (e.g. v.1 "live out your creed and risk your life"; v.2 "look past the Church's door / and see the refugee, the hungry" etc.). The second four lines of these verses offer ways to live out these commands (e.g. v.3 "disarm the powers that war"). The final verse presents a hopeful vision of what will result from responding to the preceding commands.

This pattern suggests the idea of dividing the first three verses between two groups (ideally, two sides of a congregation - speaking, as it were, to each other) and then singing the final verse all together.

Also see the article, Life and Unity in the Church

More information

“Community of Christ” was first sung officially at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand (of which Shirley Erena Murray is a member) in 1985, to provide a hymn on social justice. It was then taken up in Australia, and published in the inclusive language collection, Out of the Darkness.

Shirley says that the distinctive layout of the text as seen in Singing the Faith was first suggested by her publisher, Hope Publishing, when Hope published her collection In Every Corner Sing in 1992.

It was Hope’s practice at the time to publish hymn texts with layouts that respond to the subject and poetry of the words. Arguably, this has the effect of drawing the singer’s attention to the shifts in metre and rhyme scheme and to the echoes between phrases. As a result, we are pointed more clearly to the meaning that the poet intends.

In “Community of Christ”, the printed pattern suggests a mirroring process – the second half of each verse reflecting the first, but working out in more detail its implications. So:

v.1 (first half), if we make Christ’s cross our own and live out our belief (“creed”) then (second half) we become the face of God for the world
v.2 (first half), if our faith is outward looking (“past the Church’s door”) then
(second half), like Jesus, we get our hands dirty and help those in need
v.3 (first half), if we cry out for justice and peace then
(second half) we need to practice what we preach and “disarm the powers that war”
v.4 (first half), when God’s will is done then
(second half) our faith and actions are motivated by love and kindliness

Shirley says that the experience of seeing her words laid out in this way was an important part of her creative development. “Now I am adamant that my own setting out of the lines is followed. It is essential for poetic sense. It also provides visual satisfaction and makes for ease of use by the reader/singer.” She adds that “it is interesting to track the other words set to the tune ‘Leoni’ and see what different editors or typesetters have done”. (See three other hymns set to this tune in Singing the Faith.)

She comments: “I agree entirely with Brian Wren that interlining of words without a separate page for the text is no way to present the sense, as well as the poetry, of a hymn. It's just a pity that orders of service in churches often save space by compacting lines and making non-sense of some phrases. This grieves me, but there it is.”

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