The choir started off the season with one of my favorite anthems. It has become a favorite not because of music, although it is a beautiful tune written by British composer Maurice Bevan, but because of the text written by Frederick Faber (1814-1863).
Frederick Faber was a theologian best known for his hymn writing. He himself had an amazing spiritual journey. His family was of Huguenot descent, and their strict Calvinist beliefs influenced much of Faber’s youth. When he left home to study at Oxford he was exposed to the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement and its popular preacher John Henry Newman. During this time, he struggled to reconcile the beliefs of his youth with this radically divergent form of Christianity.
In 1839, Farber was ordained in the Church of England and served the community Cambridgeshire. He soon found that there was a strong Methodist presence in his Parish, and many challenged his taking the congregation in a more Roman Catholic direction. So, in 1845 Faber left the Church of England to become a Catholic Priest. He was drawn to the way of life of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a group of priests and lay brothers with a decentralized authority and greater freedom of life. In 1850, Faber founded a community of the Oratory in London which eventually found its home in Brompton with the building of the Brompton Oratory.
I have had my own faith journey that has led me from a childhood in the Evangelical Free Church, to the Presbyterian Church and eventually to the Episcopal Church, where I have found a home. I love that as Episcopalians we strive to welcome all who come through our doors. I find it refreshing that we want people to question what we believe, and that we allow ourselves to “agree to disagree” with others in our own congregation. I think that is why I find this hymn text so life giving. It is as relevant today as it was when it was written over 150 years ago. I hope you find it meaningful as well.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in God’s justice which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings have such kindly judgement given.
For the love of God is broader than the measures of our minds;
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
But we make God’s love too narrow by false limits of our own;
And we magnify God’s strictness with a zeal he will not own.
There is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members in the sorrows of the Head.
There is grace enough for thousands of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations in the upper home of bliss.
If our love were but more simple we should take God at God’s word;
And our lives would be all gladness in the joy of Christ our Lord.