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"Our Home, Our Pilgrim Way" — Sunday's Sermon Hymn

This hymn was created by Suzanne Swanson and Steven Amundson as a commission by Pilgrim, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Pastor Carol Tomer’s ordination, celebrated at Pilgrim on Nov. 17, 2013.

Suzanne is a poet and Pilgrim member, who has created word weavings for the Celtic contemplative evening services at Pilgrim for a number of years. She has been a member of the Laurel Poetry Collective, has published several collections of poetry, and has worked as a psychologist specializing in working with pregnancy, postpartum and mothering. Steve is the conductor of the Saint Olaf College Orchestra, a role he has served in since he was 25 years old. He grew up in a parsonage, in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Wind Lake, Wisconsin, places where his much younger :) cousin, Carol Tomer, also spent lots of time. He has written 21 orchestral works, that have been performed by over one hundred orchestras, including the BBC Concert Orchestra, Toronto Symphony and the Chicago Symphony. This was his first hymn commission.

About the hymn text, Suzanne wrote in 2013:

I am grateful to have been invited to write the text for a hymn to honor Pastor Carol Tomer, and celebrate the 25th anniversary of her ordination. The challenge -- create stanzas that “know” and recognize Pastor Carol, but make the hymn larger than one person, larger than the occasion, larger than Pilgrim Lutheran.

I gathered Carol-specific and Pilgrim-specific phrases and words:

* “The pilgrim path/way” (of course!)

* “Hungry minds and souls”

* “We’ve been expecting you.”

* “May God’s goodness be yours, and well, and seven times well.” (sung at the closing of the Celtic service)

* “Not an easy peace.”

You will see these (or their echoes) in the hymn. And, of course, I had to include dancing, one of Pastor Carol’s favorite forms of worship.

These phrases are embedded from the beginning in the beauty of the invocation, “God in whom we live and move and have our being.” With that introduction, I hope the hymn belongs not just to Pastor Carol, but to all of us. The rhythm of that phrase set the rhythm for the hymn -- simple and also, I hope, singable.

But of course, we would not be singing these words without Steve Amundson’s lovely and carefully crafted score, music which will carry our gratitude to the Holy One, our home, our pilgrim way, far beyond today. We sing now -- dancing, praying, walking --with the saints who’ve gone before, for those who will come after us, with our sisters and brothers next door and in the Philippines and in Nicaragua and in Syria and at our sister congregation in Tanzania and all over the world: “God’s goodness does not cease.”


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