Rev. Wells, pastor of Lakewood UCC, where I’m music director, introduced me to this grand Congregational hymn with which I was not at all familiar. Now, it’s one of my favorites: My Faith, It Is an Oaken Staff.
The tune’s name is THE STAFF OF FAITH and its composer is anonymous. It’s been variously described as traditional Swiss melody, or an English folksong. It’s in public domain.
After seeing his picture at the above links, the following account gave me a laugh: “he was a s student at the Highbury Independent College; but withdrew, partly on account of failing health, and partly because his spirit was too free to submit to the routine of College life.” He looks as if he and I both share an equally dissolute life! Nevertheless, he wrote an amazing amount of moving texts.
We’ve been doing in-person services for several Sundays following CDC guidelines. Among those restrictions, we don’t sing hymns or have choral music because those are such high risk behaviors during the pandemic. I did an instrumental version of a hymn this past Sunday and I noticed there was a soft, eerie, ghostly echo of the melody. The congregation with every so quietly, subvocally, humming the tune. Hopefully, that’s not a risky behavior, or at least it’s an acceptable risk behavior. It does give the people a chance to express themselves. I hope it’s safe. It was certainly touching.
Now that the primary musical vehicle for my work at Lakewood is no longer online, I”m trying to tidy up a list of everything I’ve posted online during the pandemic. I plan to repeat some of my own favorites, maybe one a week. Here’s one I really like a lot!