|Author Richard Leach
Released 12/07 Catalog no. 125-428
Pages 286 (6" x 9" soft-cover)
Price $24.50 (U.S.)
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Richard Leach celebrated 20 years of his writing hymns in 2007, and this impressive collection of texts shows why Leach's hymns are appearing in more and more hymnals, anthems, and collections. Tuned for Your Sake contains 226 hymns organized into three sections: Praising God & Hearing Scripture, Meeting Jesus, The Spirit & the Church. Leach has written notes for many of the hymns, and the book includes complete indexes (scriptural, topical, and metrical) and a listing of publications.
Introduction by Richard Leach
This book collects my hymn texts, to mark twenty years of writing them. I began writing hymns when I was a United Church of Christ pastor in Connecticut. In the spring of 1987 I sat in on a Yale Divinity School course on worship taught by Jeffrey Rowthorn. New hymn writing was the topic one week. The words of poets Thomas Troeger and Brian Wren were so vivid and energized compared to what I was leading the congregation in every Sunday morning, that my first reaction was "Wow!" And then I thought, "I wonder if I could do that?" And then, "I want to do that." So I began to try.
As a pastor in a non-liturgical church, I was already doing a lot of writing to be spoken aloud, by me alone or by the whole congregation---sermons, pastoral prayers, congregational prayers. Writing words to be sung was a leap, but not too great a leap. Before the brief encounter in Rowthorn's class, I was only vaguely aware that new hymn texts were being written and sung, and did not know they could be so strong. The Yale Divinity School library also had copies of The Hymn, the journal of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, which I had not seen before. I joined the Society, and found the world to which Troeger and Wren belonged--poets and composers, church musicians, pastors and singers committed to congregational song as a lively contemporary art. My Hymn Society membership has been invaluable to my work. It has been personally enriching as well, a source of close friendships.
So from 1987 till now I have been writing hymn texts. I think I am like most writers of any kind; I write for my own satisfaction, and for others to read and use, in a mix that shifts yet is never all one or the other.
As a sacred poet, I want my hymn texts to be biblically and theologically accurate and sound. I want them to be well thought out and well crafted. I haven't wanted to repeat what has been said before. My goal has been texts that sound new, even surprising, yet at the same time are wholly at home in the liturgy, alongside scripture reading and formal prayer, in the mouths of whomever has come to worship that day. One composer, if I remember correctly, said my words had "a bite"; another wrote that they could "sting like bees." Both comments were meant as compliments! I would say that I have been trying to write words that enliven, rather than deaden or numb.
I believe that the better the hymn poem, the greater the possibility of satisfaction and delight for the worshiper, and the more likely we are to be giving worthwhile praise to God. I recoil from worship in which we have to ignore any of the words, spoken or sung, because they are silly or wrong or simply pointless. And, practically speaking, better words elicit better tunes from composers.
My work from 1987 to 1999 was often related to weekly reading and reflection on the scripture passages of the revised common lectionary, the basis of my preaching. In 1999 I left the UCC ministry to become a Lutheran layperson. My hymns since then have been occasioned by various commissions, requests, contests, many book projects, and still now and again the lectionary.
Hymn poems have independence and integrity, but they could not be sung without the work of my friends and colleagues, the composers who have written tunes and settings for my words. My warm thanks to all who have set my texts, whose names are in the individual hymn notes and the end notes. Amanda Husberg and David Ashley White are collaborators and friends of especially long standing.
There are other debts of thanks due here, some greater than can be paid by what will be a passing mention. My twenty years of hymn writing draws upon much that preceded its beginning in 1987. My thanks, then: to my late parents, H. Paul and Pauline Elizabeth Dole Leach; to Bowdoin College professors William Geoghegan and Burke O. Long; Princeton Theological Seminary professors George Stroup (now at Columbia Theological Seminary) and the late James Loder; to Old Testament scholar and seminary professor Walter Brueggemann, whom I do not know personally but whose work has been of immense value to me; to many faithful parishioners when I was a pastor, and all who have been my pastors, before and after I was one myself; to David Schaap, president of Selah Publishing Company.
September 15, 2006