Week 11: The Church



The Church’s One Foundation

Text: Samuel John Stone (1839–1900), 1866

Tune: Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876), 1864

  1. Amidst “schisms” and “heresies”, the hymn presents a picture of the church unified in “one Lord, one faith, one birth”. Is this message relevant today, as it was when Stone wrote it? How should we deal with “schisms” and “heresies” in our modern church?
    • Sarah Stankorb: “Every assembly of two Methodists is a committee with three opinions.”
    • John Wesley, “On a Catholic Spirit”, 1771: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?”
    • Was the Reformation a good thing? We may agree with the theology, but look how many fractures and divisions exploded out of it: Lutheran, Reformed, Wesleyan, Baptist, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, in addition to Catholic and Orthodox…

O Church of God, United

Text: Frederick B. Morley (1884–1969), 1953

Tune: Traditional German

  1. Written in the middle of postwar America, the hymn has a particular sense of optimism as it describes “the upward way”. Does that cheeriness ring hollow today? Are we really seeing “the ordered ranks appear … to serve one valiant leader”?

    • The tune definitely helps with this feeling … “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” and “I Sing the Almighty Power of God” are upbeat hymns of praise.
    • Church membership in the United States is rapidly declining:
      • United Methodist — 10,671,774 in 1970 to 7,392,654 in 2014 (30%)
      • PCUSA — 3,131,228 in 1983 to 1,760,200 in 2013 (44%)
      • CRC — 310,014 in 1989 to 245,217 in 2014 (20%)
  2. Morley’s and Stone’s hymns are different in tone, but there are differences in content as well. How do their images of the church compare? What would you say each one sees as the purpose of the church?

    • Stone focuses on the church as the “bride of Christ”.
      • Christ sought the church, not the other way around. (“Elect from every nation…”)
      • The church is waiting, for oppression to cease, for “the consummation of peace”.
    • Morley emphasizes the evangelism of the church.
      • Call to action: “proclaim to all one message”.
      • The church follows Christ, but makes a bright pathway for others.
    • Both emphasize unity:
      • Stone: “one foundation”, “one o’er all the earth”, “one Lord, one faith, one birth”, “one holy name”, “one holy food”, “one hope”
      • Morley: “one common Lord”, “one message”, “one people”, “singleness of aim”, “by love united”, “single witness”
      • Stone, however, connects this unity to the Trinity: “union / with God, the Three in One”

From Greenland’s Icy Mountains

Text: Reginald Heber (1783–1826), 1819

Tune: Lowell Mason (1792–1872), 1823

  1. With modern sensibilities, this hymn has rapidly fallen out of favor (and those few hymnals who include it have universally omitted the second verse since the 1930s). Is its point still valid, though — do we as the church need to make missions a priority? What is it about spreading the gospel in this way that makes us uncomfortable?
    • How do we balance local missions against international missions?
    • Do we really believe we can “deliver / their land from error’s chain”?
    • Can we speak with certainty that we “are lighted with wisdom from on high”?