Hymn of the Month – January

By: Stephen Schall

January finds us exploring a new tune that can be sung with several terrific texts. This week I’ll introduce the tune RENDEZ A DIEU and we’ll sing it to the hymn, When John Baptized by Jordan’s River

The hymn was written by Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926). Dudley-Smith is a retired bishop of the Church of England. He also edited a Christian magazine, Crusade, which was founded after Billy Graham’s 1955 London crusade. Dudley-Smith began writing comic verse while a student at Cambridge; he did not begin to write hymns until the 1960s. His hymns appear in many hymnals, including two in The Presbyterian Hymnal. The words of the first stanza tell about those who came to John to be baptized. The second stanza tells the story of Jesus’ baptism. And the third stanza is a prayer that we might grow in love and peace through our baptism. 

The tune is attributed to Louis Bourgeois (c.1510-1561), who is perhaps most familiar to the average pew sitter as the composer of OLD 100TH – the tune to which we sing the Doxology. Bourgeois was a French composer who was responsible for setting the music for the Genevan Psalter – essentially, the Calvinist hymnal. This book contained metrical settings of the Psalms – the only sung texts Calvinists were permitted to use in worship. It’s rather ironic that this tune, which would have been known by heart by those early Presbyterians, is being taught as a “new” one. The melody is beautiful and quite singable, and with at least three texts that are important and helpful for worship, we are sure to use it for years to come!