“O Holy One and Nameless”

Westminster Presbyterian Church

“O Holy One and Nameless” was the beautiful and moving Processional Hymn at the September 16, 2012, worship service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Rev. Dr. James Gertmenian

The lyrics were written by Rev. Dr. James Gertmenian, Senior Minister of Minneapolis’ Plymouth Congregational Church, and are set to the “Munich” hymn tune by Felix Mendelssohn.[1]  Rev. Gertmenian said in writing this hymn he “wanted to use images and themes which, while rooted in the Christian tradition, spoke of a more universalistic vision. All religions are not the same, and we need not adopt a goal of amalgamating the great families of faith, but humanity’s future depends on our ability to see that the taproots of religion are sunk in common soil and draw from the same nutrients of spirit and truth.” Here are the hymn’s lyrics:


O holy  One and Nameless Who wears a thousand names,

Throughout the ages changing, yet steadfastly the same;  

We gather here to worship in hopefulness and praise,  

Recalling all your mercies that magnify our days.

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In awe we humbly witness that your are greater still

Than any human language could compass or fulfill.

We praise your for the myst’ry in which your truth is sealed.  

We praise you for the story that is your truth revealed.

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That story’s long unfolding from temple, mosque, and church,

Grows ever wide and deeper and sanctifies the search

That leads to your dwelling within the common place,

Where all the world is holy and radiates your grace.

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And yet this wider story is told a thousand ways,  

With each a matchless vision with each a certain praise

So ev’ry human family and ev’ry human soul  

May know you in their language and, knowing, made whole.

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For wisdom free from doctrine, for faith transcending creed,  

For simple, true compassion, for love enshrined in deed:  

We offer up our bodies, our hearts, our hands, our minds    

To find our truest worship in serving humankind.

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This hymn was especially appropriate at this time in light of the recent Muslim rage about the trailer for an outrageous movie about the Prophet Mohamed that apparently was created by individuals who said they were Christians.

I believe that all religions and all religious institutions, leaders and followers are human and, therefore, imperfect or flawed. They all have their positive qualities, and they all have their negative or sinful qualities. We have been seeing too much recently of the latter for Islam and Christianity. This hymn reminds us of their positive and common qualities.

Rev. Gertmenian also delivered the sermon that day, “”What Do Our Hearts Treasure?,” that will be covered in a subsequent post. The entire service, including the Processional Hymn and the sermon are available in streaming video on the web.

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[1] This hymn was written on commission for the 300th anniversary in June 2011 of Green’s Farms Congregational  Church of Westport, Connecticut.  The most well-known lyrics for the “Munich” tune are “O Word of God Incarnate.”