The Flowered Cross
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost Preview

We Are the Church Alive

In this thirty-first post of my hymn series, we've arrived at 2005 and the point in my journey when I became Pastor at Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City.

Great Worship picture

Our favourite hymn at CoH-OKC, the one we sang the most each year, is a hymn that comes from the Metropolitan Community Church.  It is a hymn I greatly miss, as it does not appear in our UCC hymnal.  I think my current church folk would love it as much as I do.

We are the Church Alive,
Christ's presence on this earth;
We give God's Spirit body
in the act of our new birth.
As yielded open channels
for God's descending dove,
We shout and sing, 
with joy we bring
God's all-inclusive love.

It is an empowering song of mission.  A justice mission that involves healing and radical witness.  The second verse sings of being set free "no more enslaved by guilt and shame, we live our liberty!" 

Another hymn I learned at CoH which does appear in the hymnody of other traditions is "Ours the Journey," as we called it at CoH, or "In the Midst of New Dimensions" as others know it.  We sang a rich, six verse version at CoH.

In the midst of new dimensions,
in the face of changing ways,
who will lead the pilgrim peoples
wandering their sep'rate ways?

God of rainbow, fiery pillar,
leading where the eagles soar,
we, thy people, ours the journey
now and ever, now and ever, 
now and evermore.

The third verse, I note, does not appear in all printed versions:

Through the years of human struggle,
walk a people long despised,
gays and lesbians together
fighting to be realized.

The hymn is a great anthem to the diversity of God's people being led through the wilderness to the promised land of liberation.  The fourth verse sings of "a rainbow coalition."  The final verse connects the Exodus imagery with Easter.  If the darkness threatens us "may thy blazing phoenix spirit resurrect the Church again."

At CoH we often made much use of Civil Rights anthems and protest songs, and it was always interesting to me when I would also sing these at a vigil, demonstration, or public event.  There was a  powerful connection between the work of justice and the singing of God's people.

We are a gentle, angry people,
and we are singing,
singing for our lives.
We are a gentle, angry people,
and we are singing,
singing for our lives.

Nothing, of course, is quite as moving as "We Shall Overcome."  I have sung it in settings of great sadness and settings of great joy.  It is always emotional.  My most vivid memory is singing it at the funeral of longtime Oklahoma City LGBT activist Paul Thompson.  The entire room rose to its feet and clutched hands as we sang with vigor, overcoming our grief that this significant leader had passed from us.

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome some day.
Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe,
We shall overcome some day.

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