Ascension Lutheran Church – Citrus Heights, CA – Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA

Hymn of the Week for October 2, 2022 – To the Bath and the Table // Crashing Waters at Creation

The gathering hymn this Sunday is an arrangement of two hymns from the “paperless music” tradition.

The words for “To the Bath and the Table” came from the old church bell at West Denmark Lutheran Church, a congregation established by Danish settlers on the western shore of Little Butternut Lake just outside Luck, Wisconsin. Their early church bell was inscribed with these words in Danish:

Til Badet og Bordet, (To Font and Table)
Til Bønnen og Ordet, (To Prayer and Word)
Jeg Kalder Hver Søgende Sjæl. (I Call Every Seeking Soul)

The bell called its people to gather together around the font, the table, prayer, and the Word – what we do (and hope to do) every time we gather for worship.  This inscription echoes the words and the theology of Nikolaj F. S Grundtvig, a Danish pastor and theologian who is also recognized as a hymn text writer.  Some of his more well known hymn texts are O Day Full of Grace, Built on a Rock, and The Bells of Christmas.  Theologian and liturgist Gordon Lathrop wrote about this bell and the theological insights behind the inscription in an article in the academic journal, Grundtvig Studier 51.

The text of “Crashing Waters at Creation” was written by Sylvia Dunstan, a minister in the United Church of Canada who also served as a prison chaplain and a Canadian worship journal editor before her death from liver cancer in 1993.  In her all-too-brief life, Dunstan wrote at least 45 hymn texts, two of which might be more familiar to the people of Ascension – All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly and Bless Now, O God, the Journey.  Crashing Waters at Creation gives us some brilliant imagery of the power of water in Scripture, centered around creation, the parting of the waters during the Exodus, and the baptism of Jesus.  This text can be found in the hymnal Evangelical Lutheran Worship, set to the tune STUTTGART.

These texts have both been set to tunes written by Mark Howe, director of music at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Burlington, VermontThese two have been paired together in “paperless music” circles, with To the Bath and the Table acting as an ostinato sung by the choir and congregation and Crashing Waters at Creation sung above the ostinato by a cantor.  Here at Ascension, we give each tune and text their turn in the spotlight, continuing to pair the texts in one hymn while singing them separately over a keyboard ostinato.