Travis recently asked me to post some thoughts on the new Sojourn Album, Over the Grave: the hymns of Isaac Watts, volume 1.

This album is the first of a two-album Isaac Watts project by Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. (Though a Baptist church, Sojourn is also affiliated with the Acts 29 Network, a group seeking to plant gospel-saturated churches worldwide.) This album has been described by the musicians at Sojourn as “Hi-Wattage”, meaning an indie-rock feel, while the next album will be more folk/acoustic influenced, hence, “Lo-Wattage”.

Let’s get the genre out of the way. There’s no way I would describe this as an indie-rock album. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s just an inaccurate genre designation to place on an album with such a variety of sounds. For one thing, producers Mike Cosper and Neil Robins have outdone themselves in making this album different from their other albums. While I enjoyed Advent Songs (especially the new tune for “Joy to the World”), this album is on a completely different level of creativity of lyric writing, composition, and arranging.

This is not a project like Red Mountain Church or Indelible Grace or even my own music. These are not hymn texts with new tunes. They are new compositions inspired by the hymn texts. This becomes clear by comparing one of the pieces. On the left is Isaac Watts’ Hymn 15 and on the right is Sojourn’s “May Your Power Rest on Me”, inspired by that hymn.

Hymn 15

Our own weakness, and Christ our strength.

2 Cor. 12:7,9,10.

Let me but hear my Savior say,
“Strength shall be equal to thy day,”
Then I rejoice in deep distress,
Leaning on all-sufficient grace.

I glory in infirmity,
That Christ’s own power may rest on me:
When I am weak, then am I strong,
Grace is my shield, and Christ my song.

I can do all things, or can bear
All suff’rings, if my Lord be there;
Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains,
While his left hand my head sustains.

But if the Lord be once withdrawn,
And we attempt the work alone,
When new temptations spring and rise,
We find how great our weakness is.

[So Samson, when his hair was lost,
Met the Philistines to his cost;
Shook his vain limbs with sad surprise,
Made feeble fight, and lost his eyes.]

May Your Power Rest on Me

Written by Joel Gerdis and Neil Robins

Let me hear my Savior say,
“Your strength shall return”.
Then I’ll rejoice in my weakness
As I lean on your grace,
As I lean on your grace.

Chorus:
May your power rest on me.
You are strong when I am weak.
I can bear all things when temptation springs
For you sustain me all my days.

Let me know my Savior’s face;
Let my hope be secure.
Then I’ll rejoice in my weakness
As I lean on your grace,
As I lean on your grace.

Chorus

Once from the Lord withdrawn
I thought that I could live my life alone.
Leaving the solid ground
I sank beneath His wisdom.
The harder I tried to climb,
The closer I was to find how great is my weakness.

Chorus

Though the trial still goes on,
Your grace will be my song.
For I can bear all things when temptation springs
For you sustain me all my days.

I’ll have more thoughts tomorrow. If you’ve heard this album, what are your thoughts?

Post filed under Hymns, Music, Psalms and tagged .

One Comment

  1. The first stanza of Watts Hymn 14 appears as Stanza 2, using tunename “Gethsemane” in J. L. Clapp, Ancient Harmony Revived (1849), recently recorded by a cappella by Tim Eriksen & his Northampton Harmony quartet.

    Here the first stanza is from #429 Psalms and Hymns Adapted to Social, Private and Public Worship: in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1843, Philadelphia)

    When struggling on the bed of pain,
    And earth and all its joys are vain.
    How sweet, my God, to know thy power
    Sustains me in this trying hour!

    Notice the part of the hymnbook title that says “Social, Private and Public Worship” — where “social” refers group hymnsinging outside of Sabbath observance.

    If anyone can help me find music for “Gethsemane” I would be much obliged, because this fits nicely into the categories of “social” and “private” worship.

    David Olson
    Culver City CA

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