Charles Wesley: A Poet With A Mission
2007 marked the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism and the one of the most prolific and profound English-language sacred poets. One says that Methodism was born in song and certainly Charles Wesley is one of the primary reasons. He wrote literally thousands of hymns, many of which still are a vital part of Christian worship around the world: "Hark! the herald angels sing," "Christ the Lord is risen today," "O for a thousand tongues to sing," and "Love divine, all loves excelling," to name but a few.
Song continues to be at the heart of the worship life and mission outreach of Methodism today. The heartbeat of Methodist worship around the world is the praise and worship of God in song. Just as the early Methodists drew others to Christ through song, so the people called Methodist today reach out to others through the gospel proclaimed in song.
The 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley concluded with a seminar on "Worship, Evangelism, and Wesleyan Hymnody" at the United Methodist Theological Seminary in Moscow.
The Global Praise Program of the General Board of Global Ministries offers a number of Charles Wesley music resources for the use of pastors and congregations. They celebrate the life, work, and message of this powerful servant of God, whose hymns have been translated into scores of languages. His hymns cross all denominational lines and witness to the power of God in Christ today and in every age.
(1) Charles Wesley at 300: A Poet with a Mission is a resource, which brings together musical settings from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century by John F. Lampe, George F. Handel, and J. S. Bach, with options for solo and congregational participation. These musical settings are appropriate for piano, organ, or harpsichord, and bass continuo may also be added. In addition, there is a group of newly composed and arranged musical settings of Wesley texts, some of which are appropriate for praise teams/bands and other contemporary instrumental and singing groups, as well as new arrangements of some traditional musical settings. and a companion CD will be available.
(2) The Good Samaritan is one of the great mission stories of the New Testament. Charles Wesley wrote a series of fascinating hymns to interpret this story, which he sees through the eyes of the victim. The hymns have been set to music by Mary K. Jackson in a twenty-five minute cantata for SATB choir and two soloists (tenor and baritone). It is of medium difficulty and is available via "print on demand." It may be performed with piano, other keyboard, or organ. Optional instrumental parts for oboe, cello, flute, timpani, and harp are also available. To order a copy of this musical score, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
(3) Songs for the World(songbook and CD) is a selection of eighteen hymns by Charles Wesley set to music by composers from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and the Caribbean region. They are in a variety of musical styles and intended for congregational use. All of the hymn texts are printed in full on pages facing the music, making them easily accessible for study groups. The hymns are also scored in a regular hymnbook format so that they are readily useable by choirs and congregations for singing. The companion CD of the same name includes all eighteen hymns in the songbook.
(4) Songs for the Poor (songbook and CD) is a selection of thirteen hymns by Charles Wesley addressing life with, among, and for the poor. Interestingly most of them never appeared in any hymn book until 1993. For whatever reason, most of the texts in these hymns have been ignored in the hymn books of the church, except for "Help us to help each other, Lord," "Come, sinners to the gospel feast," and "Jesus, the gift divine I know." These hymns address a many-faceted ministry among the poor and have now come of age. They provide a strong theological foundation and motivation for such ministry. What better way to celebrate Charles Wesley's 300th birth year than to sing about this aspect of our mission. It is a mandate of the gospel in our time. The companion CD of the same name includes all thirteen hymns in the songbook. Most of the tunes are familiar but newly arranged.
(5) Anthems/choral octavos of Charles Wesley hymn texts:
- Order Number / Title
- WS 2001 / And Can It Be (Ludmila Garbuzova)
- WS 2002 / Author of our Salvation(Carlton R. Young)
- WS 2003 / Hallelujah, Christ is Risen (S T Kimbrough, Jr.)
- WS 2004 / O Gentle Shepherd (Jorge Lockward)
- WS 2006 / Still for Thy Loving Kindness, Lord(Swee Hong Lim)
- WS 2007 / Thou Alone (Jane Marshall)