- Singing the Faith: 719
- Alan Gaunt
- “Hounsfield” by Paul Wood arr Paul Leddington Wright
Ideas for use
Alan Gaunt’s hymn about the need for peace that only God can offer is, sadly, of near-continual relevance. Perhaps it offers a particular challenge during Remembrance Day worship or on the annual international Peace Day.
It is a hymn that can be sung or spoken as intercessory prayers. If speaking the text, try having a single voice speak the declarations of prayer while the whole congregation responds with a vision of what peace should look like, e.g. (verse 1):
We pray for peace,
but not the easy peace
built on complacency
and not the truth of God.
We pray for real peace,
The peace God’s love alone can seal.
Here is a hymn that confronts the difficult reality of establishing lasting peace in the nations and continents of our world while balancing our near-hopelessness with hope found in God’s presence. Within each verse, Alan Gaunt alludes to the dreams and vision we share with God: “the peace God’s love alone can seal.” (v.1) Individual phrases affirm “real peace, enriching all the human race” (v.2) and remind us of “Christ our risen Lord” (v.4).
This mood, in which hope and faith steadily push back despair and strive to offer resolution is well caught in Paul Wood’s uplifting yet thoughtful tune “Hounsfield” (with its echo of Stanford’s “Engelberg” (StF 731).
The first four lines of “We pray for peace” is included in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Alan Gaunt says, “I think one of the editors must have been in the congregation at Westminster Abbey when it was chosen for a service connected with the first Iraq war.”
In an interview with Douglas Galbraith (Different Voices, Martinmas 2009, pp.12-13), Alan (pictured left) continued:
“The hymn moves through all the partial and compromised versions of peace we might be tempted to be satisfied with and ends by acknowledging that the only peace worth the name is that which is in God’s gift.
“The hymn, for me, would not be complete without the last verse. Perhaps more now than when I wrote it (pre-1974) I could easily despair of the world; but, trusting God, I dare to believe, ‘through death or tumult, peace will come’. (v.6)”
Also see Edel McClean's personal reflection on this hymn. For more about Alan Gaunt, see Lord Christ, we praise your sacrifice.