“God Be in My Head”

Vocation was the overall theme of the inspiring January 26th worship service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. Several parts of that service were especially meaningful for me, and its Prayer of Confession was discussed in a prior post.[1]

That Prayer of Confession was a major focus of the first part of the service—“Preparing for the Word.” Another focus of that part was the Westminster Choir’s rendition of the Anthem, “Benediction at God’s Acre,” with the following words:

  • “God be in my head, and in my understanding. God be in my eyes, and in my looking. God be in my mouth, and in my speaking. God be in my heart, and in my loving. May your mercy fall upon us. May your healing grow within us. May your beauty overwhelm us, so that we may know your grace. God be in my head, and in my understanding, here on this land, here on this acre of God’s love, abiding in God’s love.”

These words, with some alteration, are from the Sarum Primer of 1514, which was a book of prayers and Christian worship resources in the Roman Catholic Church that was collected by the clergy at Salisbury Cathedral in the south central part of England. It was published in 1514 in the “Book of Hours” (Cambridge) and republished as the “Sarum Primer” in Salisbury in 1558. (“Sarum” is the abbreviation for Sarisburium, the Latin word for Salisbury, which was and is both a city and a diocese in England.).

The composer of the anthem is Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947), a graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music with B.A., M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in Music Composition. A former faculty member of the Oberlin College Conservatory, she resigned from academic employment in 1982 in order to pursue a career as a full-time composer.

In 2012, the Westminster Choir sang another version of this anthem by a different composer that was the subject of a prior post. As a commentator to that prior post pointed out, the text for this anthem is in the Hymnary of the United Church of Canada.

Both versions of the anthem emphasize a prayer for God’s ever presence in our lives and thus in our vocations. The words coming from the 16th century provide a connection with other believers over the centuries.

[1] The Bulletin for the January 26th service that includes the text of this anthem is available online along with the text and an audio recording of the sermon and a video recording of the service. Another blog post discussed Westminster’s order of worship  while clicking on “Westminster Presbyterian Church” in the Tag Cloud at the top right of the blog will give you all of the posts about the church in reverse chronological order of posting.

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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