- Singing the Faith: 664 (CD27 #14&15)
- Marjorie Dobson
- “Magdalene” by Paul Leddington Wright
Alternative tune - Angel Voices (StF 39)
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Ideas for use
Use this hymn as a starting point for illustrating the many ways in which individuals and groups serve God – using projected images, posters made by children in your community, objects brought forward in worship… Marjorie’s words might inspire a whole-church activity or project. Certainly, it provides an opportunity for your worshipping community to take a step back and see itself collectively: its varied gifts, its different personalities and backgrounds – all gathered together by and in Christian love.
Though it may be tempting to turn straight to the alternative and more familiar suggested tune (“Angel Voices”, StF 39), Paul Leddington Wright’s “Magdalene” is worth exploring as its shifting, unexpected harmonies mirror the theme of shifting expectations in Marjorie Dobson’s words: “life for us is always changing”; God “could lead us, as you need us, anywhere” (v.2). The tune itself is a twisting journey: though written in the key of G major, “Magdalene” begins uncertainly in B minor and doesn’t reach its “home” key until the very last chord. This is a hymn of “calling and commission”, Paul seems to be saying, not one in which you start out and end up in the same place.
In Janet Wootton’s book This is Our Song: women’s hymn-writing (2010: Epworth Press), Marjorie Dobson offers this hymn as a summary of what she describes as her passionate advocacy of the priesthood of all believers. She writes:
“Everyone has a place in God’s mission and work. Whether you are an academic, or someone who doesn’t feel that you have much to offer; whether you are ordained or not; whether you have recognizable talents and skills, or are always somewhat in the background; female or male; young or old – it doesn’t matter. God welcomes you, and our singing ought to reflect that.” (p.261)
Marjorie writes from the heart. She says elsewhere in the same article that she herself came from “an ordinary working-class background”, left school at age 16, and lacked confidence. She was “shy by nature and not driven by ambition”. Nevertheless, she understands that all Christians are called to God’s service, wherever that may take them. We are prone to “set our human limits on the work we can do” and so need to be open to new opportunities (“life for us is always changing in the work we share”, v.2), the inspiration of Christian love, and to God’s guidance:
Send us your directing Spirit,
pour your power through,
that we may be free in living
and in giving
all for you. (v.4)