With a Song in my Heart – 40 Days of Sacred Songs
Day 5 – Monday after 1st Sunday of Lent
To Listen: God of Concrete, God of Steel
1 God of concrete, God of steel,
God of piston and of wheel,
God of pylon, God of steam,
God of girder and of beam,
God of atom, God of mine,
All the world of pow’r is Thine!
2 Lord of cable, Lord of rail,
Lord of motorway and mail,
Lord of rocket, Lord of flight,
Lord of soaring satellite,
Lord of lightning’s livid line,
All the world of speed is Thine!
3 Lord of science, Lord of art,
Lord of map and graph and chart,
Lord of physics and research,
Word of Bible, faith of Church,
Lord of sequence and design,
All the world of truth is Thine!
4 God whose glory fills the earth,
Gave the universe its birth,
Loosed the Christ with Easter’s might,
Saves the world from evil’s blight,
Claims mankind by grace divine,
All the world of love is Thine!
From the Scriptures:
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ 29 God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
At an all boys Boarding School being enthusiastic about anything (other than Rugby) tends to be frowned upon. Peer pressure is intense and, if students do not have strong examples and role models around them, a nascent belief in God can melt away as easily as the morning mist over the sea wall along the banks of the River Stour.
Volunteering was frowned upon, but especially so when it came to choosing to do more of a compulsory activity. In a school where there was Chapel from Monday to Friday (hymn practice on Thursdays), Assembly in the School Hall on Saturdays, and either Matins or Evensong on a Sunday, choosing to do ‘Extra God’ was anathema. Let me explain a little…
Although almost 600 of the 700 boys at the Royal Hospital School (Form Two was ALWAYS Confirmed) were entitled to receive Communion there were no compulsory Communion services. To receive Communion you had to go out on a limb. Communion was held early on a Sunday morning which meant acquiring permission to be out of bed early and to be excused morning showers. By the time the Communion Service ended the rest of the school was already at breakfast. This meant our faithful band of 30 or so ‘Sky Pilots’, had to run the gauntlet of arriving late for breakfast as well as putting up with the eating of our bacon and/or egg by someone else. It was humiliating and felt as if someone had slipped you The Black Spot.!
The only thing that kept me attending ‘Extra God’ during those years were the Staff members who attended Communion with me. Over the years I noticed that it was not the teachers of Humanities – the dealers in philosophy – who joined a slightly apprehensive band of adolescent pilgrims for early church, but the Science teachers. It seemed that those who had spent time peering at minutiae down microscopes or gazing at the vastness of the stars through telescopes paid homage to some ‘Thing’, some ‘One’, greater than themselves. They, and it turned out I as well, put their faith in a ‘God of Concrete and Steel’ and not some kind of mythical Sky Fairy….
Which leads to today’s hymn choice. On Saturdays, to liven up worship and also give more time for announcement about Sport’s fixtures over the weekend, instead of worship in the Chapel we had assembly in the School Hall. The marvellous Hill, Norman & Beard Organ (if you have a chance, do go and listen to it in action) was replaced by a grand piano, and instead of Hymns Ancient & Modern (Revised) we had 100 Hymns for Today.
It was between the pages of this appendix to Hymns A&M – we always wondered if there were any ‘Modern’ hymns included between the pages of the Chapel hymn book – that my faith was nurtured and formed. These hymns rooted my faith in everyday life and made it not so much about ‘Remember when’ but more about ‘What next?’
For a teenager tempted to follow the crowd that ‘with all their breath, cried “Crucify”!’ it was a God send. Here, in these easy to understand and ‘in your face’ words was the plain speaking for which my heart yearned. God was not ‘Pie in the Sky When You Die’ but active in the here and now. Even amongst those who rejected you because you chose to not follow the crowd. It was not an easy time but, on reflection, it was a holy time and now, whenever I post on Social Media about my School years I am more than happy to add the hashtags #RHSmadeMe #PartOfRHS.
When faith is scorned
and love grows cold,
then, God of hosts, rebuild your Church
on lives of thankfulness and patient prayer;
through Christ your eternal Son.
1) Do a kindness to someone who has belittled you for being a Christian.
2) Is there a hymn that helps you realise that your faith has a sure foundation? Sing it today.
Reprise: Tell Out, My Soul
This hymn is what they call in the ‘Trade’, an absolute Banger! Replete, as I was to learn later in my studies of Liberation Theology, it was sung with great gusto at school. I’m not sure why, perhaps it was (as is the wont of adolescents) a desire to kick over the traces? Whatever it was we felt better after singing and often went on to win Rugby fixtures on the days we sung it
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
his mercy sure, from age to age the same;
his holy Name, the Lord, the Mighty One.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Pow’rs and dominions lay their glory by.
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.
Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children’s children and for evermore!
(Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926) based on Luke 1:46-55)
Please Note: These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin
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Prayers are adapted from the Psalm Prayers in the Common Worship Psalter. material from which is included here, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2005
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘With a Song in my Heart’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2022