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When in creation - hymn for tsunami tragedy

Written by Ana and Tod Gobledale
January 1, 2005

Greetings from Australasia,

The tragedy of the Boxing Day Tsunami has gravely touched the Australian shores as we are a neighbor to the countries devastated. Numerous Australian police and university students have been involved in the response and relief work. Numerous families living here have lost loved ones, families "at home" and families on holiday. Yesterday, 16 January, was declared a national day of mourning, and services were held throughout the country, in churches and civic centers.

This hymn was shared by the Australian National Council of Churches to be used in these services and in the weeks ahead as we remember Emanuel, God is with us, in this tragedy and in others that will arise in our world.


Ana and Tod Gobledale

When in creation

When in creation life is lost, the powers of God seem weak.
When young and old are swept away by rivers in the streets,
We seek the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day,
and pray to God that lives be saved and hope will find a way.

Where is the goodness of our God when seas force life to die?
Where is the powerful love of God when people hurt and cry?
Lord, how your wonders are displayed, wher e’er I turn my eye,
O God, our help in ages past, be with the world today.

How can the glory of our God be known through tragedy
When water, rock and sand be made to kill humanity?
While all that borrows life from you is ever in your care,
O God where were you on that day when darkness shook our sphere?
When in creation life is lost, we turn to God for peace,

And seek the one who came to serve he greatest and the least,
O Christ whose presence comes to us in the Spirit’s flowing power,
Abide with us and give us strength to face life’s darkest hour.

© Tommy Shephard (26 December 2004) published by the United Methodist Church, Board of Discipleship

This hymn was composed in memory of the thousands of people who lost lives on 26 December 2004 in the earthquake and tsunami . The text incorporates lines from Isaac Watts’ 1715 text “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”

Background on the Hymn

An Australian pastor, Peter Holden, has done an adaptation of a six-year old hymn for the new disaster caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Asia and Africa. Holden served as a pastor in Indonesia before retiring to Australia. His adaptation changes some of the verses in “The Storm Came to Honduras” while keeping other lines. The new hymn also keeps well-known tune of “Passion Chorale” by Hans Leo Hassler (1601) that was harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1729 and is associated with the popular hymn "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded".

In November 1978 Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote a hymn, “The Storm Came to Honduras,” in response to Hurricane Mitch's devastation in Central America. Many congregations in the USA and overseas used this hymn to encourage support for what the United Nations described as the “worst natural disaster in western hemisphere in the 20th century.” The hymn was widely shared on the Internet, posted on numerous denominational and ecumenical web sites and featured twice on national PBS-TV. Holden and Gillette hope the new hymn will encourage individuals and congregations to support the relief efforts responding to new disaster.

Many churches have used the hymns of Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. Her“In Times of Great Decision” hymn for the November 2004 election was sung by thousands of congregations and featured in a National Council of Churches news story that was carried by Presbyterian News Service, United Methodist News Service, Episcopal News Service as well as Religion News Service story that was in The Christian Century magazine. “O God, Our Words Cannot Express”, a hymn she wrote on September 11, 2001, was used by thousands of churches, featured on national PBS-TV in the United States and the BBC-TV in the United Kingdom, and made into a music video by Noel Paul Stookey of “Peter, Paul and Mary” and Emmy-winner Pete Staman. Church World Service, the ecumenical humanitarian agency, has a Web page with links to postings of 15 of her hymns. She was commissioned to write a hymn for the inauguration service for Churches Uniting in Christ. The United Methodist Church promoted her hymn for peace (“God, Whose Love is Always Stronger”) before the war with Iraq. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has sent one of Gillette's hymns to all of their congregations. The American Baptists sang her jubilee hymn at their national meeting. The new Episcopal hymnal supplement has four of her hymns in it. The Presbyterian Church (USA)'s Geneva Press has published a book of her hymns titled “Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today's Worship.” She and her husband Bruce serve as the co-pastors of the Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

Peter Holden is a retired minister of the Uniting Church in Australia who most recently served as the pastor of the Jakarta Community Church in Indonesia. In 1963 he was ordained a minister of the Methodist Church of Australasia, having been trained through the church's seminary as well as the Melbourne College of Divinity. He served pastorates in the Methodist Church in Australia and in the United Methodist Church in the USA before his first ecumenical appointment as Executive Officer of the South Australian Council of Churches in 1977. Since that time he has also served as the Executive Director of World Christian Action (the overseas aid and development arm of the National Council of Churches in Australia) and as founding Executive Officer of the Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism (a Third World based and controlled ecumenical body). In these positions he traveled extensively, wrote more than enough, spoke at several international forums and was frequently sought for media comment.

Contact Information for Peter Holden:
6/67-69 Henry Parry Drive Gosford 2250 Australia
Phone and Fax (+61 2) 4322 2387 Mobile 0400 331 521

Contact Information for Carolyn Winfrey Gillette:
Limestone Presbyterian Church, 3201 Limestone Road, Wilmington, Delaware 19808-2198
Church Web site:
Office Phone: (302) 994-5646
Home Phone: (302)-994-0220

The Gobledales serve the Common Global Ministries Board at Churches of Christ Theological College (Seminary) in Australia. They are accompanied by their 16-year old son, Mandla, who attends Rowville Secondary College, the local high school. Their 19-year old daughter, Thandiwe, continues her university studies at Pomona College, in Claremont, California.

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