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Ada Simpson


The call to truth and justice:
How can I keep from singing?

I often ask myself that very question. But then sometimes I wonder, do we have anything to sing about? We live in uncertain times, in a world fraught with conflict and violence. Wars rage, some fought in the name of God. We live in a country struggling with problems of religion, race, gender, drugs, the economy, and political discord. We minister in a church with dwindling numbers of both clergy and worshipers; a church in which the gap between the laity and the hierarchy seems to be ever widening; a church polarized over health care, gay rights, reproductive issues, the role of women in the church; a church that still struggles with the heinous crimes committed against defenseless children by clergy and religious; a church that, to some, seems out of touch with the needs of the poor, the needy, the defenseless.

We dedicate this issue to music ministry; we observe journeys of truth and justice with and for musicians. James Savage shares how a summer music camp for children instills in them a love of music and the importance of full, conscious, and active participation in liturgy. Virgil Funk surveys issues of justice for musicians and parishes, and he traces the changes in attitudes toward musicians since Vatican II. Alan Hommerding evaluates the effects of the new translation of the Roman Missal on liturgical music and observes that transition often becomes tradition. Denise Gannon urges pastoral musicians to move beyond singing texts of justice to become the song, living lives of integrity and justice.

Contemplating the role of music ministers, I think of the Hebrews who sat by the waters of Babylon and wept as they hung their lyres on the willows. Their captors demanded songs of joy, but the Hebrews, filled with sadness, could not sing songs of Zion. At times, it is hard for musicians today to continue the song, but we have no option. Now more than ever, we must continue our song of Zion, the New Jerusalem. We are all called to speak up for justice and truth. We are called to be a voice for those whose voice cannot be heard. We are called to raise up children to become witnesses for Christ, and we must carry the gospel message to the world through our work, through our prayer, through our song.

How Can I Keep from Singing?

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing;
It sounds and echoes in my soul;
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest 'round me
I hear the truth, it liveth;
What though the darkness 'round me
Songs in the night it giveth.

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death knells ringing;
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?

The peace of Christ makes fresh my
A fountain ever springing.
All things are mine since I am his;
How can I keep from singing?

Text: 87 87 with refrain; attr. to Robert Lowry, 1826–1899, alt.; verse 3, Doris Plenn. Music: Quaker Hymn; attr. to Robert Lowry.