The Mystery Telling
Hymns and Songs for the New Millennium
William L. Wallace
Composer William L. Wallace
Released July 2001
Catalog no. 125-435 (Spiral-bound, 66 pp.)
ISBN 0-9677408-3-5 (spiral)
Price $12.00 (U.S.) (125-435cd, with recording, $15.00)
Read the Preface
"My theology teacher, Schubert Ogden, used to say things so billiant that it took the next half hour to really let them sink in. The only trouble was that I missed all the lecture during that half hour. That's the joy and challenge of Bill Wallace's hymn poetry. There are some images that are so expansive and fresh that I need plenty of time to let them sink in.
This collection of 49 texts by Wallace addresses a diverse range of subjects including the church year, the changing seasons, life passages, earth keeping, sexuality, and ecumenism. Among the expansive images are the very first words of the book's first text; 'Christ, the tent God pitched among us tabernacled on this earth.' The wedding of that extraordinary text with PICARDY is inspired. Wallace's gift of pastoral spirituality (he is a retired Methodist pastor from New Zealand) is especially vivid in the Maundy Thursday text which invites the singer right into the story; " 'I wash my hands' my inner Pilate said./ 'Another death is no concern of mine;/the fate of humans or indeed of Earth/should not disturb me as I sleep or dine.' " The strength of these images underscores Wallace's own claim in the book's preface, "if you are merely looking for hymns which cry 'peace, peace' when there is no peace, this book may not be for you."
Though Wallace certainly has a mature prophetic voice, he is also capable of playfulness. An invitation to disciplined spiritual life is set to the tune TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS ("Trust in your spirit," "Dance in the wonder," etc.).
The tunes come from a variety of sources, including several of his own tunes, some of which have been arranged by a group of Wallace's contemporaries in New Zealand. Taihei Sato's mysterious tune, SHIMPI, is beautifully paired with the Good Friday text, "Why Has God Forsaken Me?" Because Wallace's texts are often so full of meaning and nuance, it is challenging to find tunes that meet their emotional requirements. In fact, with some of the more demanding texts, I felt that a single stanza was enough.
The book is beautifully printed with an exquisite cover and a full set of helpful indices. The spiral binding makes for ease of playing. An extra bonus is a nicely mastered CD with 37 hymns and choruses [taken from this collection and his second collection to be published in 2003]." --The Hymn, January 2003
William Livingstone Wallace (Bill) is a retired Methodist Minister from Aotearoa/New Zealand who has spent all his working life in parish ministry. However, he has always sought to reach beyond the boundaries of the parish and of his own denomination into ecumenical and latterly inter-faith activities. He has been described as a prophet and a mystic and despite Bill's reluctance to accept such designations there are undoubtedly prophetic and mystical elements in many of his hymns. In recent years one of Bill's main concerns has been to attempt to bridge the gap between the thought world of traditional Christianity and the thought world of the new scientific view of human beings and the universe.
Some of Bill's hymns have found their way into a range of North American hymn books and have also been included in publications in England, Germany, Latin America and Asia. Nevertheless, The Mystery Telling is the first substantial collection of his work to appear outside of Australasia.
In addition to hymn writing, Bill has produced worship resources which have appeared in anthologies. The two major ones are Gifts of Many Cultures edited by Maren Tirabassi and Kathy Wonson Eddy (United Church Press, l995) and A World of Blessing, compiled by Geoffrey Duncan (Canterbury Press, 2000).
Bill has also composed melodies, designed sculptures and church windows and created a garden of spirituality.
In contrast to many contemporary hymns, Bill's writing stands within that tradition in which hymn singing is seen as a major avenue of clearly articulating theological beliefs. Despite this, Bill's hymns always seek to be inclusive in the widest sense, focusing on the mystery and the experience rather than on dogma. In Bill's understanding we are not liberated (saved) by adherence to definitions but by allowing ourselves to let go and fall into the depths of the mystery--the mystery in the heart of God.
It has been said that a faith that cannot sing is no faith at all. It is my hope that these hymns and songs which have arisen out of the song in my own heart will join with the song in your heart and so add to the all embracing song of the Universe. However, if you are merely looking for hymns which cry "peace, peace" when there is no peace, this book may not be for you. The famous American composer Aaron Copland railed against people who used music as a couch. "Music," he said, "should wake us up not put us to sleep."
The hymns in The Mystery Telling attempt to help us to be alert to some of the critical issues facing the human race in this new millennium. These include environmental concerns, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the need to hold together both globalization and the value of one's own particular culture, religion or system of morality. For Christians one of the most challenging concerns must be the ever increasing distance between the emerging world view, supported by the frontiers of science, and that within which traditional Christianity is set. In the face of this and the accompanying decline of Christianity in many Western cultures, I believe we need to distinguish clearly between, on the one hand, dogma, images, and definitions and, on the other, the mystery which we call God-that which we glimpse through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12).
Fortunately, part of the new science is an affirmation that what we do not know will always exceed what we do. In other words, we are surrounded by mystery.
I have chosen The Mystery Telling as the title for this book because, coming as it does from one of the Eucharistic hymns of Thomas Aquinas, it serves as a link between medieval Christianity and contemporary expressions of faith. It is my firm belief that through recovering the awareness of the mystery of God we will move to a deeper level of faith. It is this Epiphany which will enable us to walk with Christ into the challenging and largely unchartered waters of the 21st century. We will then be able to say with Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-1280) "the day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God and God in all things."
May this be the experience of all who sing this book
William L. Wallace (Bill)
Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Easter 2001
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