Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil is a simple and short hymn with a powerful message. I couldn't find much on this piece or the composer Handt Hanson except that he is the Worship Arts Director at a thriving Lutheran church in Minnesota. There are two additional hymns of his in the ELW which we have sung before; Go Make Disciples and Before I Can Remember. He is also the author of the book "Mission Driven Worship-Helping Your Changing Church Celebrate God" in addition to a variety of other music and books through Augsburg Fortress.
Blessed Assurance was one of our Lent hymns that we studied by the beloved Fanny Crosby. She is so fascinating to me because she never let the bumps in the road get her down. Blind since infancy, she went on to be not only a great poet, hymn writer and prominent name among Christian households but also an important advocate for the disabled. My favorite quote of hers is "The Lord has planted a star in my life and no cloud has ever obscured its light".
Sent Forth by God's Blessing is a famous Welsh folk tune known as The Ash Grove and the text was written by Omer Westendorf. Westendorf got his start in music publishing after World War II, when he brought home for his parish choir in Cincinnati some of the Mass settings he had discovered in Holland. Interest in the new music being published in Europe led to his creation of the World Library of Sacred Music, initially a music-importing firm that brought much of this new European repertoire to U.S. parishes. Operating out of a garage in those early years, Westendorf often joked about the surprised expressions of visitors who stopped by and found a wide range of sheet music in various states of “storage” (read disarray). Later, as World Library Publications, the company began publishing some of its own music, including new works with English texts by some of those same Dutch composers, for example, Jan Vermulst. In 1955 World Library published the first edition of The People’s Hymnal, which would become the People’s Mass Book in 1964, one of the first hymnals to reflect the liturgical reforms proposed by Vatican II. Using his own name and several pen names, Westendorf composed numerous compositions for liturgical use, though his best-known works may be the texts for the hymns “Where Charity and Love Prevail,” “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing,” and especially “Gift of Finest Wheat.” As he lay dying, his family and friends gathered around his bed to sing his text “Shepherd of Souls, in Love, Come, Feed Us.”
A special thank you to our guest soloist, Sara Conley. Sara is a sophomore at Concordia, Moorhead studying both Environmental Science and Political Science. Both Sara and I are from the same hometown Helena, Montana and we both attend the same church when back home.