We lay our broken world
in sorrow at your feet
Source: Singing the Faith: 718
Words: Anna Briggs
Music: “Sorrow” by Paul Leddington Wright
Metre: 66.86. Short Metre
Idea for use
This is a hymn that can serve as a prayer of intercessions (or “prayer for others”). Anna Briggs observes that the hymn has been found to be helpful in response to “man-made” disasters and tragedies. She received responses following its use after the events of “9/11″ in 2001.
The text can be sung or spoken. If spoken, try pausing in silence between each verse in order to allow reflection on the images and situations that Anna Briggs evokes. If sung, consider using this hymn text as your main prayer rather than adding more words to those already sung.
“We lay our broken world” also suggests the use of actions and other media while singing the hymn. E.g.:
• Place a newspaper and Bible together on the communion table to symbolise the issues we need to address in our world and the way God helps us to respond
• For each verse, have members of the congregation bring objects forward that symbolise the issues addressed by the text. Different phrases will trigger ideas – “broken world”, “human life”, “broken towns”, “friends parted, families torn”…
• Display images from the news and from around the world on a large screen
• You may know individuals who can convey the meaning of the words through dance or movement
Paul Leddington Wright has written a new tune for this text. “Sorrow” reflects the profound sadness that underpins Anna Briggs’ words. For an alternative tune, try “Garelochside” by Kenneth Finlay (StF 647). It shifts the tone of the words towards the sense of hope and resolution found in the final lines of verses 3 to 5 and in the final verse: “… find in us love, and hope, and trust, / and lift us up to you”.
Anna Briggs is not widely represented in denominational hymn books. This is her only text in Singing the Faith. However, many of her hymns and prayers appear in occasional publications and anthologies (e.g. Celebrating Women: the new edition pub. SPCK, London: 1995) and are notable for their honest engagement with often difficult and painful issues that touch our personal lives.
One survey of Christian hymns notes that “The theme of longing and the tone of tenderness are dominant in the texts of Anna Briggs. [In ‘We lay our broken world’] she recounts the many manifestations of brokenness in contemporary life and commits them to God.” To this it should be added that her texts are always written out of personal experience, and that she allows her emotional response – grief, anger, horror – to have a voice. She does this in part by (in her words) avoiding being “hymnic” and by using clear phrases, free of cliché, e.g. “We bring our broken loves, / friends parted, families torn” (v.4); “We bring our broken selves, / confused and closed and tired” (v.5).
Though also found elsewhere in the form printed in Singing the Faith, Anna has revised the final verse of this hymn to read:
Come fill us, fire of God.
Our life and strength renew.
Find in us love, and hope, and trust,
and lift us up to you.