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The Spirit Sends Us Forth

posted Jan 26, 2013, 2:12 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 2, 2015, 2:31 PM ]
“Let us bring to life and liturgy the gifts that differ… for the building up of our sisters and brothers into the one Body of Christ” proclaims Delores Dufner, OSB in her introduction to her hymn anthology Sing a New Church; its title taken from the hymn she is most famous for.  A member of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, MN, she has published over 155 hymns in her lifetime, earning several awards.  At the turn of the millennium, The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada named her “the foremost female Roman Catholic hymn text writer in the United States.”

Realizing that the Catholic Church was in need of English hymns after the Vatican II reforms, Sr. Dufner began writing texts for existing hymn tunes that were in the public domain; free of copyright restrictions and available to everyone free of charge.  By pairing a fresh text with a durable old tune, she tries to bridge the gap between the past and present, encouraging us to become active witnesses to our evolving faith and church.

Her modern writing style is simple and dynamic, calling us into vibrant prayer and action, and challenging us to keep the church progressing into the future.  Based on Isaiah 61:1-4 and Luke 4:16-22, The Spirit Sends Us Forth highlights our mission to live out the gospel.  She embellishes the text with action verbs:

The Spirit sends us forth to serve
To bring glad tidings to the poor…
We go to comfort those who mourn…
And help the blind to see…

She cleverly reiterates the first stanza through the last, as she sends us forth “in Jesus’ name” through the working of the Holy Spirit. 

In Breaking Bread it is published with the hymn tune AZMON.  But she also suggests it may be sung to ST. ANNE (O God, Our Help in Ages Past) or LAND OF REST (Jerusalem, My Happy Home.)  The tune AZMON was introduced to this country by German Lutherans in 1839.  It had been composed eleven years earlier by Carl Gotthilf Gläser, a choral conductor who taught piano, violin and voice at St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach had worked just seventy-eight years prior.