Hymn 436 in the green hymnbook, is a hymn generally used at the conclusion of a meeting. Two tunes are given for this hymn. These are named “Vesper” and “Eton College”.
The hymn tune Vesper was first written by Dmitrii S. Bortnianski (1751-1825) from the Ukraine (as a Russian air) and then arranged by John Stevenson. This tune is one of fifteen given in the current green hymnbook that can be sung to the words of Hymn 436, 1st tune. The same meter is used for all fifteen hymns.
The meter for hymns in the green hymnbook are given on the top left-hand page corner of each hymn tune, just under the hymn number. The meter for “Lord Dismiss us with Thy Blessing” (Hymn 436, 1st tune) is 87.87.87. Toward the end of the green hymnbook a chart is given entitled Metrical Index of Tunes. For the hymn meter 87.87.87 fifteen hymn tunes are listed that can be used for the words of Hymn 436, first tune. One is the hymn tune we most commonly sing for Hymn 436, on page 626 in the green hymnbook. Of the remaining fourteen hymn tunes, eleven can be used for Hymn 436 with no alteration to the words given for the first tune (which are slightly different than the words given for Hymn 436, second tune). These Hymn numbers are 81, 148, 191, 254, 300, 303, 312, 322, 341, 390, and 402.
The rest of the hymn tunes listed with the meter 87.87.87 need to be altered slightly to fit the words of Hymn 436, first tune. For example, Hymn 116 has four verses, whereas Hymn 436 has just two verses, so only two repetitions of the hymn tune are needed when using this hymn tune for Hymn 436. With Hymn 281 the words of the last line of each of the verses of Hymn 436 needs to be sung twice. For Hymn 301 the words of Hymn 436, verse 1 (“O refresh us”) and verse 2 (“May Thy blessing”) need to be repeated three times.
One other hymn tune is listed under Metrical Index of Tunes for Hymn 436, second tune. The meter used here is 87.87.47, and Hymn 150 has the same meter. For Hymn 436, second tune, to be successfully sung with this hymn tune, the words of verses 1 and 2, lines 3 and 4, need to be repeated. For example, verse 1 will be sung, “Lord dismiss us with Thy blessing, Fill our hearts with joy and peace: Let us each, the truth possessing, Bear its fruits and run the race. O, refresh us, O refresh us, Travelling through this wilderness, Travelling through this wilderness.”
The words of Hymn 436 were written by John Fawcett, who was born on January 6, 1740, near Bradford in Yorkshire, England. This hymn was originally written with three stanzas. The words of verse 1 are almost identical to the words in the green hymnbook. “Lord dismiss us with Thy blessing: Fill our hearts with joy and peace; Let us each Thy love possessing, Triumph in redeeming grace. O refresh us, O refresh us, Travelling through this wildernesss.” The first two lines of verse 1 of this hymn ask the Lord to strengthen us and bless us with peace as we leave our place of worship. The words, “Lord dismiss us with Thy blessing, fill our hearts with joy and peace”, are a reminder of Aaron’s blessing to the Israelites:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26).
We too are asking the Lord’s invocation to bless us and to bring joy and peace into our lives.
John Fawcett’s words for verse 2 are, “Thanks we give and adoration, For Thy Gospel’s joyful sound; May the fruits of Thy salvation, In our hearts and lives abound. Ever faithful, ever faithful, To the truth may we be found.” The first two lines written by John Fawcett and Hymn 436 in the green hymnbook are identical. These words express our thanks and adoration for the special blessing of the Gospel message.
The words of the last four lines of verse 2, by John Fawcett, are slightly different from those in the green hymnbook. But both express a desire that the gospel will positively impact hearts and lives today and that genuine gratefulness to God will be a motivation to lead faithful lives. Both sets of words convey the desire for faithful and fruitful service — “May the fruits of Thy salvation” and “May we gain Thy great salvation” — and present thoughts of striving that will lead to commendation by Christ at his return:
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matt 15:21).
It is challenging and enjoyable to try various hymn tunes to a hymn we know. It helps us to focus on the words and tune a little more closely than with hymns that have become so familiar to us that we can sing them almost by rote. Perhaps you could try using some other hymn tunes with hymn words that are known and used in your ecclesia.
Joan and Ken Curry