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In Isolation: March 26, “An Evening Hymn”

An introduction to this “In Isolation” blog series appears at the top of the March 22 post.

Evening in Plymouth, a port city in Devon, southwest England

Fred Kaan (1929-2009) was born in The Netherlands, but offered most of his ministry in England and Switzerland. The Pilgrim Church in Plymouth presented him with one of his most rewarding experiences in congregational ministry soon after he was ordained into the United Reformed Church of England and Wales..

At one of their weekly gatherings, an adult study group challenged Fred to write a hymn text reflecting the familiar prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” — but they requested that he write it for adults! In researching the ‘assignment’, Fred discovered a piece of German prose from Leipzig written in 1597 which inspired the first two verses. He did a rough translation from the original German to English and then constructed the result into metric poetic form. He didn’t forget the original request: the fourth and final verse fulfilled the study group’s “Now I lay me down to sleep…” challenge.

These days, there are not many opportunities for us to sing ‘evening hymns’ together. I’d like to be so bold as to suggest that we, as choir singers who are physically separated from one another for the time being, read or sing through this text tonight before going to bed. Reflect on the peaceful urban image above, an evening photo of the city in which “An Evening Hymn” was created. Note the nighttime sense of serenity in the very place that is, during daylight hours, a bustling port city.

Let us be mindful that, for the most part, we who are part of the Brechin family close our eyes in comfort and safety while countless others will spend this same night in pain, grief or fear.

You are on earth, Companion Christ,
of all the treasures that exist,
most precious for possession,
and every day, befall what may,
you are my heart’s confession.

Of all that lives, on earth, above,
none can exceed your faithful love,
and I am well persuaded
that all of life and even death
are by your love pervaded.

Your word is true, it cannot lie,
and on its promise I rely
in every day’s endeavor.
Your word is true, I turn to you;
your love will last forever.

To you, O Christ, as day departs,
now with each rhythm of my heart,
I give myself for keeping.
Let then your light be round me bright,
and guard my soul while sleeping.

Words by Fred Kaan
Copyright © 1972, 2001 by Hope Publishing Company
(Carol Stream, Illinois) for USA and Canada.
Copyright © 1972, 2001 by Stainer & Bell Limited (London, England) for all other territories.