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Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Musical Musings: Baptism

Today's Musical Musings in inspired by yesterday's Gospel reading of Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist--for liturgical churches, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

First up is an old video of Dolly Parton singing "Shall We Gather at the River?" My parish sang this yesterday as a new baby, its parents, and the clergy processed to the font.

The hymn was written by Robert Lowry (March 12, 1826 - November 25, 1899) was an American professor of literature, a Baptist minister and composer of gospel hymns.

Next up is a very Catholic video of St. Louis Jesuit John Foley's "Come to the Water." It's based on the beautiful text from Isaiah and frequently sung at Catholic baptisms. We sang this reflectively at my eldest daughter's baptism (while she was being dried and dressed in her white garment after being immersed) but here Matt Maher rocks it out. You'll need to click on the link above as embedding wouldn't cooperate.

Mainline Protestant congregations often sing "Borning Cry" at baptisms and other life transition rituals. (Which means some folks in that setting are sick to death of it, but I rather like it).

Finally, it's back to the evangelical world with a very different "Come to the Water," by Marsha Stevens-Pino. We used to sing this at campfires in college. She was part of the 70s Jesus movement and a very popular composer until she came out as a lesbian; now a major focus of her ministry is letting other Christian gays and lesbians know that God loves them just as they are. This video combines modern and vintage footage of the song with a little bit of her story.

What songs do you and your congregation love to sing at baptisms?


  1. Baptized in water freed by the Spirit.

    The tune folk can carry and the words I think surprise them but remind them of the difference between baptism and washing. The Presby book of common worship has a great line I've used all along... let this font be the womb of your new birth..

    It's monday morning to be sure.
    ps I listened to the last song, come to the waters sung by the Gaithers. the irony was full.

  2. Thanks Bobbie!

    I never heard that line from the BCW, Bobbie--it's gorgeous.

  3. How beautiful, Sophia! Thank you.
    I remember singing "For Those Tears I Died" around campfires too. :-)

    Since we don't baptize infants, we almost always sing the chorus, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."

  4. My very mainline congregation choir sang "Come to the Water" once when I was growing up and the words just clung to me. Occasionally, the words just come up in my mind. I haven't heard it any other time than that one (that I remember) and am so happy to see it here and learn more about it. Thank you!

  5. Borning Cry makes me weep... EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

  6. Probably our congregation's favourite is a blessing we use instead of the Aaronic blessing written by a storyteller and poet in our congregation (Julie Perrin). It's particularly appropriate for Australia, but also I imagine people living in other desert places would appreciate it. It's called "For you, deep stillness of the silent inland". I've written a bit about other baptism songs, and this on my blog.

  7. Just getting back to listen to these! Thank you for them. I've never heard "Borning Cry" before but I've heard a lot ABOUT it.

    And I, too, grew up with "For Those Tears I Died." Love it! I didn't know the story of the composer and I'm grateful to hear more. Thanks be to God for her ministry ongoing!


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