On the sidewalk – a song of poverty and loneliness

I am posting this midway through Christian Aid Week. We tend to focus on needs which are abroad. Often there are people on our doorstep, in villages, towns and cities where we live who have needs which are profound. Perhaps this is where we will meet Christ. This song was written form the perspective of such a person. Hal Hopson set it with a tune for America. Some years later a (now retired) Methodist Presbyter set it and recorded it and it was published in his book, Reach.

1	On the sidewalk, by the shop-front 
        [On the pavement, by the shop-front - alt line]
	I laid down my mat to sleep;
	tears of sadness welled within me,
	thoughts of all that might have been.

2	Lost within this hidden city
	where the subway hums and groans,
	left unnoticed and defenceless,
	God forsaken and alone.

3	Can you sense my thrumming heart-beat,
	can you feel a reason why
	in your wealth you're just as lonely,
	waiting for your time to die?

4	Maybe I should look more clearly
	through the eyes of given hope,
	maybe you could stoop more lowly
	that together we may cope.

Andrew E Pratt; Words © 2002 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk. 
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. 
All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: 8 7 8 7 Trochaic
Tunes: RECONCILIATION (Hopson) published in Whatever Name or Creed, 2002.
SIDEWALK (Sharrocks) © 2010 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk  
published in Reach with accompanying CD.
A recording from the CD can be found here.

Hymns as an evolving genre

There are times in all our lives when we question what is happening and when our faith is challenged and shaken. What happens when we reach the point where it feels as though our faith makes no sense.  For many in contemporary society this seems to be the case. Perhaps circumstance leads them to this point. For others there is the sheer illogicality of believing in something intangible, metaphysical. What then? We cannot force belief on someone, it simply doesn’t work. Fred Pratt Green frames the theme like this:

When our confidence is shaken
in beliefs we thought secure;
when the spirit in its sickness
seeks but cannot find a cure:
God is active in the tensions
of a faith not yet mature.
Fred Pratt Green Copyright Stainer & Bell Ltd

In this circumstance faith is incomplete. We do not have the full picture. Arguably, where God is concerned we never can have the full picture, in which case we need to be open to the fact that faith, in Sydney Carter’s words is framed by a creed which is never fixed or final. I raise a question in the following text:

How can we live at one with God,
inspired by Christ the living Word,
infused with all the Spirit's power
when life is twisted and absurd?

[…] to grasp by faith, to act in love,
while nothing fixed or final stands.

Put another way:

When life juggles with our learning,
with the things we thought secure,
then it seems the artist’s palette
spins and faith becomes obscure.

In the wash of different colours,
as we seek for shape and form,
others paint their faith by numbers
forcing God to fit some norm.

But when life has torn the canvas,
when the numbers twist and slip;
then we need to find an image
that will help our hope to grip:

holding us, when we're past holding,
grounding when we're insecure,
till we find a faith, not drifting,
still dynamic, free, yet sure.

All the above Andrew Pratt unless otherwise stated, verses copyright Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Searing incandescent spirit – A hymn reflecting on John 13: 34 – 35

A hymn reflecting on John 13: 34 – 35 takes us, perhaps, toward Pentecost…

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.



Searing incandescent spirit, 
melting rock and churning foam, 
turning chaos into comfort 
formed the planet where we roam. 
Now we recollect the story 
of the cosmic photo-call 
when the universe was forming 
earth, the cradle of us all.


By this spirit prophets speaking 
challenged power and brought down thrones, 
pointed people to the Godhead, 
moved them from their comfort zones; 
turned their minds from selfish pleasure, 
marking wrong and putting right, 
led them from each ego's desert, 
from their introspective blight.


Now the spirit doused all people, 
no-one could escape this shower; 
sons and mothers, fathers, daughters, 
felt this rhythmic, dancing power; 
soon all nations heard the clamour, 
every language known on earth 
called to every nation living, 
join with love and find new-birth.


Andrew E Pratt; Words © 2015 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: 8 7 8 7 D
Tune: LUX EOI

Always missing, never grasping – hymn for the Third Sunday of Easter

Always missing, never grasping, 
hope amid this shifting sea, 
coast and haven seem remote now, 
too far off to harbour me.
Yet those fishermen are telling 
news that I can't comprehend, 
news that Jesus is still living, 
hasn't met his final end.
	
But I saw his body hanging 
silhouetted like a sail, 
blood was draining, rigor rising,
movement quietened, life gone pale. 
Now they say that sail is filling, 
spirit billows drive him on, 
Christ is cresting all disaster, 
life returns and death is gone.
	
Yet unless I see the bow wave, 
feel the tiller in my hand, 
sense the tautness of the lanyard, 
I can hardly understand.
Source of wind and wave, my sailor, 
give me faith to grasp this news, 
you are living, death defying, 
heaven, earth and joy will fuse.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) Words © 2015 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd
Metre: 8 7 8 7 D
Tune: LEWIS FOLK MELODY


Watercolour from Words, Images and Imagination © Andrew Pratt

What is this love?

What is this love? Just this we know 
that love transcends all pomp and show, 
that love exists, above below, 
love was and is and is to be, 
by grace we are both loved and free.


What is this love? It precedes life, it overcomes all dark and strife, love is the Spirit’s keenest knife, pure love has brightness in its eyes, yet breathes forever, never dies.
Love is the interface of change, no difference rests beyond its range, its nature gracious, other, strange, it holds birth, death and all between, here all is safe: both hidden, seen.
Love is the point where hell is breached, where joy is glimpsed and heaven reached, the outcasts find they’re unimpeached, on this wide earth the lost are found for love is safe, is solid ground.
Andrew Pratt 17/4/2022