For gay and for straight, a place at the table, hymn — Shirley Erena Murray, New Zealand

This song, entitled ‘For everyone born,’ is copyrighted, but the words soar with truth and beauty so I’m sharing them via links.

For the complete lyrics click here.

Hear a rendition on Youtube  by the First-Plymouth Church choir in Lincoln, Nebraska USA.

For everyone born, a place at the table…

For gay and for straight, a place at the table,
a covenant shared, a welcoming space,
a rainbow of race and gender and colour,
for gay and for straight, the chalice of grace,

and God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
yes, God will delight when we are creators
of justice, justice and joy!

Copyright is held by Hope Publishing Company which explains on their website:  ‘If you have an active license with CCLI or OneLicense, no license is necessary directly from us; however, please remember to report the use of our material to the licensing agency.’

First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln,  Nebraska writes:

Shirley Erena Murray’s text, ‘For Everyone Born,’ is a powerful hymn for human rights and justice. First published in 2008 by the Global Praise unit of the General Board of Global Ministries’s text, “For Everyone Born,” is a powerful hymn for human rights and justice. urray presents the unconditional and challenging vision of God’s shalom, especially as it addresses the worth of all persons.

Ms. Murray writes:
I wrote this text in 1998, when I was involved with work for Amnesty International and because I couldn’t find anything to reflect a broad overview of human rights in any hymnbook. You can see that I have used some of the very basic ideas of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — the right to shelter, safety, food, and later, the right to a job, to freedom of speech and worship. I’ve tried to put them in a context which relates directly to the Gospel, but without excluding those who are not of the Christian faith…. But in [a] more specific way, and to me an authentic one, it relates deeply and immediately to the manifesto of Jesus and all that he taught.” What is this table? In my mind it began as the table of the world in the peaceable kingdom, an imaginary place of justice and joy where everyone gathers and is fed. But inevitably it was taken up as a communion hymn, in the context of the Holy Table…. And in places where exclusion by the Church is a source of injustice and pain, as with the gay and lesbian communities, it has been used to ask for a place at the table, along with every other believer.”

In all the compelling and powerful ways this text ‘speaks’ to us, it also triggers emotional reactions and can be difficult to sing. In particular, verse four sparked robust debate in the selection process. The file is thick with wide reviews from various sources and feedback from counselors, social workers, and pastors over the tensions between seeing the ideal of Christ’s teachings of reconciliation and wholeness and the realities of extreme sexual abuse and pastoral care. We are certainly challenged by this hymn to live into what the church claims to believe and called by the Creator to help bring into being. When asked whether Ms. Murray foresaw challenges for congregational singing, she responded:

“… I wrote the ‘tough’ verse 4 because I knew, under the manifesto of Jesus, that even the worst abuse has to be dealt with and faced, and forgiveness requires singing about here.  Of course, I have had much reaction to this — personal stories of terrible pain and lifelong trauma from all kinds of abuse.  Sometimes the verse is omitted… by insecure leaders of worship.  This destroys the architecture of the text. Sometimes — less often — it is welcomed as exposing and recognising wounds that seem impossible to heal.”

Painting above: close up from Communion, Hans Mayr 1870,  hanging in Kingston Lacey, UK

Sculpture below:  Eve by Auguste Rodin, in Cardiff Art Museum