Praise God for the harvest of orchard and field (StF 126)

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Praise God for the harvest of orchard and field 

Source: Singing the Faith: 126
Words: Brian Wren
Music: “Stowey” arr Erik Routley
Metre: 11.11.11.11.
Verses: 5

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The different available versions of this hymn demonstrate the way in which an author’s thinking and poetic instinct may develop over time.

Written in April 1968, the original version appeared in the UK Baptist Supplement, Praise for Today. By the time it was included in Brian Wren’s first collection of hymns (Faith Looking Forward, 1983), Brian had revised what, by then, was seen as its sexist language – including the original opening line, “Pray God that man’s harvest by men may be shared.”

Brian added: “The revision acknowledges the people involved in providing our harvest (vv.1 & 2), selects the positive aspects of scientific endeavour (v.4) and accepts the possibility that the Spirit of God can work our God’s loving purpose in the conflicts of history (v.5).”

Further revisions appeared in the Methodist hymn book Hymns & Psalms (also 1983) and Brian Wren’s Piece Together Praise: a theological journey (1996) – which is the version reproduced in Singing the Faith.

Some of the changes reflect the author’s perceptions of the way we manage the world around us. By 1983, Brian had already re-thought his earlier “over optimism about the uses of atomic power (giving us ‘freedom to fashion the world’)”. But he wanted to reflect other observations also.

e.g. Verse 3

Instead of “Praise God for the harvest of alloy and ore, / by mining and drilling, on land and off-shore”, the verse was revised to read “Praise God for the harvest that comes from the ground, / By drill or by mineshaft, by opencast mound” (Hymns & Psalms No.351). In Piece Together Praise, those lines changed again: “Praise God for the harvest that’s quarried and mined, then sifted, and smelted, or shaped and refined”. In addition a reference to “tinplate” had, by now, become “copper”.

Brian observes: “opencast mining is a destructive grab-all method that leaves eyesores – so I think the revision [as in StF] is better.” He adds that the reason for the change from “tinplate” to “copper” in the same verse is partly poetic: “Though not an alloy, tinplate is iron coated with tin to prevent rusting. Copper is one of the earliest mined metals and alliterates nicely with “coal”. See also Deuteronomy 8:9.”

Similarly, a word change in verse 1 replaces “farm” with “orchard” (line 1), which Brian believes extends the range of agriculture being described: “‘farm’ conceptually includes ‘field’, whereas orchards are a distinct method of cultivation”.

Verse 5

The most significant change came about in v.5, which had read (1983):

Praise God for the harvest of conflict and love,
for leaders and people who struggle and serve
to conquer oppression, earth’s plenty increase,
and gather God’s harvest of justice and peace.

For Piece Together Praise (1996) and Singing the Faith (2011), this verse had been almost completely refashioned to read:

Praise God for the harvest of mercy and love
from leaders and people who struggle and serve
for patience and kindness, that all may be led
to freedom and justice, and all may be fed.

One Singing the Faith user questioned this change, arguing that “we need to recognise the harvest of conflict”. In response, Brian Wren accepted the criticism and revised his text one more time, returning to the verse that appears in Hymns & Psalms, though with one caveat: “’banish’ is better – how can one meaningfully ‘conquer’ oppression?” So, in 2012, Brian Wren’s reflective, changing harvest text finds a new ending:

Praise God for the harvest of conflict and love,
for leaders and peoples who struggle and serve
to banish oppression, earth’s plenty increase
and gather God’s harvest of justice and peace.

Categories: 11.11.11.11. (11.11.11.11.) (see 5.6.5.6.D.), English traditional, Guitar chords available, Harvest, Routley, Erik, Stowey, Times and Seasons, Wren, Brian.

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