Set loose the tongues (website only)

1. Set loose the tongues, the tongues of flame
that burn with holy light to steel the failing nerve
and thrill the hearts that tremble now
till fit and fired to serve.
Come, Spirit, come as rushing wind
and sweep through every soul;
inspire your Church with new-found strength
and make your people whole. **

2. Set loose the tongues, the tongues of speech
of every native land;
let language flow, let words run free
til all can understand.
Come, Spirit, come through every word
and make God’s meaning clear;
so that the living Word may speak
to all prepared to hear.

3. Let loose the tongues, those tongues today
that long to sing your joys;
untangle thoughts, give shape to dreams,
let courage find a voice.
Come, Spirit, come, to old and young,
poured out in wind and flame,
til through all ages, space and time
the gospel is proclaimed.

** Alternative verse 1

1. Set loose the tongues, the tongues of flame
that burn with holy light
and thrill the hearts that tremble now
with wonder, joy, delight.
Come, Spirit, come as rushing wind
and sweep through every soul;
inspire your Church with new-found strength
and make your people whole.

Words: © Sue McCoan 2012

Metre: 86.86.D.

Written for the tune “Come Spirit Come” © Matthew Prevett 2012. Download the words and tune here as a PDF. This tune may also be printed from Matthew’s Score Exchange page at www.scoreexchange.com/scores/140969.html, where you can listen to an MP3 recording of the tune.

Permission is granted to reproduce this hymn for worship purposes with the copyright details included.

More information

Sue McCoan wrote this hymn at the request of Matthew Prevett. “There are plenty of good hymns about the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but fewer about the effect that [she] had on the people there on that occasion.” In this text, she suggests that our own attitudes and feelings may be similar to the first followers of Jesus in the period between Easter and Pentecost. She has us pray that God’s Spirit may have the same impact on us as he did on them.

Sue draws on images of the Holy Spirit familiar from the Bible and from other hymns about the Holy Spirit: “tongues of flame”, “rushing wind”. But her words describe more particularly the change of attitude and feeling experienced by those who sensed the Holy Spirit at work. Before Pentecost, their nerves were failing and their hearts trembled (v.1). Their thoughts were “tangled” and their dreams without shape (v.3). We are reminded of exactly where the first disciples were coming from: they had been hiding behind closed doors; not everyone was easily convinced by the idea of Jesus’ resurrection (John 20: 19-29; Mark 16: 1-8). In this hymn, their prayer becomes ours: that we may experience new-found strength to share “God’s meaning” as experienced in the life of Jesus.

By shifting the focus towards very real human feelings, Sue also acknowledges that the Christian life is “not always great; not everything is wonderful”. She says that she writes “hymns for timid people”. Like Jesus’ first disciples, we may “have no idea what to do” but God’s Spirit offers the possibility that “suddenly we may be inspired and strengthened”.

Matthew Prevett wrote the tune “Come Spirit Come” for a hymn competition in 2011. The tune was not selected by the judges but Matthew felt that it needed a life beyond the competition and asked Sue to write some new words for it. In fact she wrote two sets of words: the Pentecost text above and another set of words for use on Remembrance Sunday.

Sue McCoan and Matthew Prevett both trained as ministers within the United Reformed Church. Sue currently serves a congregation in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands. Matthew is undertaking a PhD but remains involved in leading, and composing for, worship.

For more about Sue and Matthew’s hymns, see Hymns for honest pilgrims.

Categories: Hymns only online (submit to stfplus@methodistchurch.org.uk), McCoan, Sue, Mission and Evangelism, Prevett, Matthew, The Gift of the Holy Spirit.

2 Responses to Set loose the tongues (website only)

  1. Paul Dunstan says:

    Thanks for the hymn and info. Sorry to sound like the doctrine police, but the first paragraph under ‘More information’ twice refers to the person of the Holy Spirit as ‘it’….

    • Editor says:

      Thanks for your thought, Paul. And, yes, “it” is inappropriate for a “person” of the Trinity. The text you refer to has been altered, using both female and male pronouns and so reflecting both Hebrew and Christian precedents.

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