'I have a dream', a man once said (website only)

Special Sundays:
Racial Justice Sunday
Authors & translators:
Pettitt, Pamela

“I have a dream”, a man once said,
“where all is perfect peace;
where men and women, black and white,
stand hand in hand, and all unite
in freedom and in love.”

But in this world of bitter strife
the dream can often fade;
reality seems dark as night,
we catch but glimpses of the light
Christ sheds on humankind.

Fierce persecution, war, and hate
are raging everywhere;
God calls us now to pay the price
through struggles and through sacrifice
of standing for the right.

So dream the dreams and sing the songs,
but never be content:
for thoughts and words don’t ease the pain:
unless there’s action, all is vain;
faith proves itself in deeds.

Lord, give us vision, make us strong,
help us to do your will;
don’t let us rest until we see
your love throughout humanity
uniting us in peace.

Words © Estate of Pamela J. Pettitt (1954 – 2005), reproduced with permission

Metre: 86.886

Suggested tunes: "Chalfont Park" (StF 708); “Repton” (StF 495 – with repeated last line)

Ideas for use

As well as being a suitable hymn for singing on Racial Justice Sunday and on other occasions where social division is being highlighted, Pam’s text might also inspire worship built around the life of Martin Luther King. Was he a modern saint? How did he model Christian hope? In what ways were others involved in the civil rights movement (it wasn’t a one-man show)? What can we learn from MLK’s example as we also endeavour to follow the example of Jesus? These and other questions can be explored with all ages, through readings, images, short YouTube clips, by linking with local community projects etc.

More information

The hymn's title, "I have a dream," derives from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous speech delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters on 28 August 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In his speech, King called for racial equality and an end to racial discrimination. Pam Pettitt's hymn (in particular verse 1) contains phrases that are very nearly quotations from King's speech as well as addressing more general topics of equality, justice, and freedom.

The Revd Jackson Henry of the United Methodist Church has written an interesting account of Pam's hymn, tracing its journey from light into darkness (v.3) and back towards light again. "In a brilliant turn in the fourth stanza," Jackson writes, "the act of dreaming is suddenly not enough; only in acting upon dreams can humanity prove its faith." Read Jackson's article here.

The Revd Pamela J. Pettitt was a minister in the Methodist Church in Britain. In 1983 she candidated for the Methodist ministry from Palace Avenue Methodist Church in Paignton, Devon. Pam served as a minister in Truro and at Wimborne Methodist Church, becoming Superintendent of the Wimborne Circuit in 2001. She died in 2005 following a lengthy battle with cancer. Pam wrote “I have a dream” while training for the ministry, for the re-naming of the Northern Baptist College property in Manchester as Luther King House.

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