History of World Communion Hymns

 “Amen Siakudumisa”  (“Amen, We Praise Your Name”)

The Faith We Sing, No. 2067

 Adapted and excerpted from “History of Hymns” written by Dr. Michael Hawn (www.gbod.org)

 “Amen siyakudumisa. (Amen, we praise your name) Amen, Bawo; Amen Bawo; (Amen Father)
Amen siyakudumisa. (Amen, we praise your name)”


The composition and transmission of this South African song composed by Stephen Cuthbert Molefe was made possible by one of South Africa’s most influential ethnomusicologists, Father David Dargie (b. 1937).  A Roman Catholic priest for many years, Fr. Dargie observed that many priests resorted to using European or North American melodies they knew and ignored the rich heritage of South African music, especially the music of the Xhosa and Zulu peoples. For example, the venerable Latin chant “Tantum Ergo Sacramentum” (a communion hymn attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas), was sung in one parish to “My Darling Clementine”! 

For Fr. Dargie, a white South African of Scots-Irish lineage, part of the liberation of black South Africans from the political oppression of apartheid was to encourage them to sing their Christian faith with their own music rather than in the musical idioms of their colonial oppressors. Creating workshops with indigenous musicians throughout southern Africa, Fr. Dargie gave Molefe and other musicians specific texts from the Mass to set to music.

This particular song, “Amen siyakudumisa” was designed to be sung as the “Amen” at the conclusion of the Great Thanksgiving (the Eucharist liturgy). It was an instant hit, with the whole parish singing it at Holy Week services. This song has also been used in Methodist churches in South Africa. Rather than the “Amen” of the Great Thanksgiving, it is sometimes sung as a doxology or response to the psalm. 

In South Africa the song is often accompanied on marimbas with an underlying 123-123-12 beat. Since this song is of Xhosa origin, drums are not as commonly used. Handclaps on two dotted quarters followed by a quarter-note beat are appropriate. 

 

 “Canto de Esperanza (Song of Hope)” The Faith We Sing, No. 2186

Excerpt from “History of Hymns” by Diana Sanchez-Bushong  (www.gbod.org)

 

Written in 1984 by Alvin L. Schutmaat, a PC(USA) missionary to Latin America, this joyful hymn set to a traditional Argentine folk melody, inspires us to be hopeful and work for peace and justice in the world.  Bringing in images of light and darkness, the hymn references John 8:12, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”  The hymn also alludes to Romans 15:13, which states, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  This gives us the opening phrase and sets up the idea of hope—a hope that supports and encourages Christians to strive for justice.  The charming refrain is a prayer but, even more so, is an admonishment to hopeful people—pray, sing, work, and have faith in God! 

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