New pandemic verses, For all the Saints — David Gambrell, USA

For lives cut short, no time or space to grieve;
for saints and servants you have now received;
for all who still bear witness and believe:
O Love, have mercy. O Love, have mercy.

For those oppressed and trampled by the state;
for systems built by centuries of hate;
for justice now — no longer will we wait:
O Love, have mercy. O Love, have mercy.

For dreams deferred, for lost and stolen breath;
for friends beset, beleaguered and bereft;
for days to come when love will conquer death:
O Love, have mercy. O Love, have mercy.

Permission is granted for congregations to use or adapt these words in worship, in person or online.

David Gambrell, Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology & Worship (Presbyterian Church USA), wondered if we might need different words for “For All the Saints” in 2020 — words that make more space for our lament this year.

‘In the original hymn, each stanza ends with a double ‘alleluia.’ In 2020, I felt like we might need to sing the Kyrie Eleison — ‘Lord, have mercy,’’ he said. [Note: ‘Lord’ has been changed to ‘Love’ in this version.]

So, Gambrell wrote some extra stanzas for the beloved hymn that reflect on the losses and challenges of the past year. As the words came, he imagined them being inserted between the first and second stanzas of the original text, or perhaps spoken as prayers of intercession in All Saints’ Day services.

Lectionary Links

Gambrell said the themes found in the additional stanzas are consistent with the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Sunday. Revelation 7:9–17 is a vision of those “who have come out of the great ordeal” (Rev. 7:14), as God promises to “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17). In the Gospel reading from Matthew 5:1–2, Jesus offers a blessing for those “who mourn” (Matt. 5:4) and those who have been “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:10).