30 August 2022

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Tuesday 30 August 2022

Magda’s Irish home … Dundarave House in Bushmills, Co Antrim, was the home of Magdalene (Fisher), Lady Macnaghten, for whom Vaughan Williams wrote the tune ‘Magda’

Patrick Comerford

Today the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers John Bunyan, Spiritual Writer (1688), with a Lesser Festival in the Church of England.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church can be seen through an arch on High Street … John Bunyan (1628-1688) was part of the Cromwellian garrison in Newport Pagnell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

John Bunyan was born at Elstow in Bedfordshire in 1628. He was largely self-educated and used the Bible as his grammar. He read very few other books, and they were all piously Protestant in nature, yet he produced Pilgrim’s Progress, probably the most original text of spiritual genius that century, telling the story of the man Christian on his journey through life to God.

Pilgrim’s Progress was not written while John Bunyan was a prisoner in Bedford gaol, as often stated, but during a confinement some years later. History tells us little of the man but what is clear from his writings is that the salvation of the soul was what mattered most to him. He died on this day in 1688.

We sang his only hymn, ‘He who would valiant be,’ to the well-known tune by Vaughan Williams as the processional hymn at the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford on Sunday [28 August 2022].

Luke 21: 21, 34-36 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 21 ‘Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it …

34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Today’s reflection: ‘Saviour, again to thy dear name we raise’

For my reflections and devotions each day these few weeks, I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

This morning [30 August 2022], I invite you to join me in listening to the hymn ‘Saviour, again to thy dear name we raise’ by Canon John Ellerton (1826-1893).

Vaughan Williams wrote the tune Magda with this hymn in mind, but also gave it some interesting Irish connections.

The tune was first published in 1925 in Songs of Praise, where it is chosen as the setting for this hymn.

Vaughan Williams named the tune Magda because he wrote it in preparation for the wedding of Magdalene Fisher (1903-2002), his niece by marriage, who was about to marry the future Sir Anthony Macnaghten (1899-1972) on 27 February 1926.

After World War II, the couple moved to his family home, Dundarave House in Bushmills, Co Antrim. In 1955, Sir Antony Macnaghten succeeded to the family title as tenth baronet and as Chief of the Macnachtan Clan. The first Macnaghten moved from Scotland to Ireland in the 16th century and served as secretary to the MacDonnells, Earls of Antrim. The lands they acquired included a large portion of the village of Bushmills, which the clan rebuilt in the late 1800s. The family motto is: ‘Be not wiser nor the Highest, I hope in God.’

When her husband died in 1972, Magda continued to live in Northern Ireland until her death in February 2002 at the age of 98.

One of the hymns sung at her funeral on 1 March 2002 in Dunluce, Parish Church was ‘For all the saints, who from the their labours rest.’ Her uncle Vaughan Williams had composed the tune Sine Nomine for that hymn by Bishop Walsham How (1823-1897).

The tune Magda is used for the hymn ‘Go forth for God; go forth for the world in peace’ by John Raphael Peacey (1869-1971) in both the New English Hymnal (No 321) and the Irish Church Hymnal (No 455), while Ellerton’s hymn ‘Saviour, again to thy dear name we raise’ is often set to the tune ‘Ellers’ by FJ Hopkins (1818-1901), re-harmonised by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), with Vaughan Wlliams’s Magda as an alternative tune (see New English Hymnal, No 250) .

Like Vaughan Williams and Sir Anthony Macnaghten, Canon John Ellerton was a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge. He was an authority on hymns, wrote or translated over 80 hymns, and contributed to Hymns Ancient and Modern. His best-known hymn is, perhaps, ‘The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended.’ He is said to have written that hymn in 1870 as he made his nightly walk to teach at a Mechanics’ Institute. It was published that year in 1870 for A Liturgy for Missionary Meetings.

He was born in Clerkenwell into an evangelical family, and was educated at King William’s College on the Isle of Man, and Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1849; MA 1854), where he came under the influence of Frederick D Maurice.

He was ordained deacon in 1850 and priest in 1851 by the Bishop of Chichester, and at first was curate of Eastbourne, Sussex, and then Curate of Brighton Lecturer of Saint Peter’s, Brighton.

In 1860, he became chaplain to Lord Crewe and Vicar of Crewe Green in Cheshire. There he chaired the education committee at the Mechanics’ Institute for the local Railway Company. Reorganising the Institute, he made it one of the most successful in England. He taught classes in English and Bible History, and organised one of the first Choral Associations in the Midlands.

While he was Vicar of Crewe Green, he wrote this hymn in 1866 for the Malpas, Middlewich and Nantwich Choral Association in Cheshire.

He was co-editor with Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897) and others of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) Church Hymns (1871).

In 1872, he became Rector of Saint Oswald’s, Hinstock, Shropshire, in the Diocese of Lichfield. In 1876, he moved to Barnes, then in Surrey, a west London suburb. There he became very involved in the work of SPCK. However, the work among a large population broke him down and he had to go abroad for a year, serving as Chaplain at Pegli in Italy (1884-1885). He returned to England and the small Essex parish in White Roding was his last.

During his final illness, he was made an honorary canon of St Alban’s Cathedral in 1892, but was never installed. It is said that as he lay dying hymns flowed from his lips in unceasing praise to God. He died in Torquay in Devon on 15 June 1893, aged 66.

Ellerton refused to register a copyright on any of his hymns, claiming that if they ‘counted worthy to contribute to Christ’s praise in the congregation, one ought to feel very thankful and humble.’ To hear them offered in worship was reward enough for him.

Saviour, again to thy dear name we raise
With one accord our parting hymn of praise.
Guard thou the lips from sin, the hearts from shame,
That in this house have called upon thy name.

Grant us thy peace, Lord, through the coming night;
Turn thou for us its darkness into light;
From harm and danger keep thy children free,
For dark and light are both alike to thee.

Grant us thy peace throughout our earthly life;
Peace to thy Church from error and from strife;
Peace to our land, the fruit of truth and love;
Peace in each heart, thy Spirit from above.

Thy peace in life, the balm of every pain;
Thy peace in death, the hope to rise again;
Then, when thy voice shall bid our conflict cease,
Call us, O Lord, to thine eternal peace.

Dunluce Castle near Bushmills, Co Antrim … Vaughan Williams wrote the tune ‘Magda’ for the wedding of his niece by marriage Magdalene Fisher and the future Sir Anthony Macnaghten (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer, Tuesday 30 August 2022 (John Bunyan):

The Collect:

God of peace,
who called your servant John Bunyan to be valiant for truth:
grant that as strangers and pilgrims
we may at the last
rejoice with all Christian people in your heavenly city;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with your servant John Bunyan
to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary all this week is ‘A New Province,’ inspired by the work of the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola (IAMA), made up of dioceses in Mozambique and Angola, the second and third largest Portuguese-speaking countries in the world.

The Right Revd Vicente Msosa, Bishop of the Diocese of Niassa in the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola, shares his prayer requests in the USPG Prayer Diary throughout this week.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for terrorism to cease as many innocent souls continue to be killed every day in Cabo Delgado.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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