Hymn of the Week #5 - "Draw Us In the Spirit's Tether"
Draw us in the Spirit’s tether,
for when humbly in your name
two or three are met together,
thou art in the midst of them.
Touch we now thy garment’s hem.
As disciples used to gather
in the name of Christ to sup,
then with thanks to God the Father
break the bread and bless the cup,
so now bind our friendship up.
All our meals and all our living
make as sacraments of you,
that by caring, helping, giving,
we may true disciples be.
We will serve thee faithfully.
- Percy Dearmer (1867-1936)
Have you ever wondered how words become a hymn? Who determines what goes into the hymnal? Well, in the church, as with most things, it's usually a committee's job. However, within that committee, there are often leaders who leave their personal mark on the final result. This was certainly true with The Hymnal 1982, which was the product of a committee but distinctly reflects the influence of Ray Glover and Jim Litton.
One of the key figures in shaping our hymnody in the 20th century was Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), who, along with Ralph Vaughan Williams, played a significant role in developing our hymn repertoire. They achieved this through their editing of The English Hymnal, which was published in 1906. Dearmer, an English priest, also gained recognition as the author of The Parson's Handbook, published in 1899. His influence can be found in the liturgy we celebrate at All Saints even today.
Dearmer wrote a hymn in response to George Bourne's (1840-1925) "post-communion" hymn, "Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor," which was set to the tune Bryn Calfaria (#307 in the Hymnal 1982). Dearmer felt that this melody did not possess the desired devotional qualities for a post-Communion hymn. Consequently, he wrote three new verses and paired them with a more subtle melody, considering it as "part 2" to Bourne's hymn.
Ultimately, the text would go on relatively unknown until 1957, when Harold Friedell(1905-1958) would provide a new vehicle for the text – a tune known as Union Seminary. He would set the tune and text as an anthem. Friedell, a renowned performer and educator, spent his entire life and career in and around New York City. He taught at Julliard and Union Seminary and held esteemed positions in the Episcopal Church throughout the city, culminating in St. Bartholomew's Church. Tragically, he passed away at the age of 57 from a heart attack while walking through heavy snow following a storm the night before.
While Dearmer's hymn has been included in more than 20 hymnals of other denominations, it has yet to be featured in any of the Episcopal Church hymnals. If I were to make a recommendation to the committee responsible for our next hymnal, I would suggest including this hymn!
Instead of footnotes this week, here are my main sources: