On the evening of October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey…
Martin Tel, Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, endured the storm. On October 31, in the aftermath and still without power, he met along with colleagues and students in the chapel and resumed daily worship. Later that day Martin, senior editor for Psalms for All Seasons and an editor for Lift Up Your Hearts, wrote in an email:
“We resumed services today even though power has not been restored to most of the campus. We acknowledged Reformation Day and turned to Psalm 46 for meditation. How one’s perspective changes after a storm. We closed the service with Michael Morgan’s setting of Psalm 29 – All on Earth and All in Heaven. It was incredible. We have a manual pumping mechanism behind the organ which allowed us to sing full throttle! The community was ready for that. The song doesn’t attempt to make sense of the destruction, but leads us to hear a word of peace after the storm has passed. It led perfectly to the benediction.”
The text of the second stanza of this hymn:
Trees shall bow in awe and wonder,
bend their branches to the ground;
from God’s lips one word in anger
wreaks destruction all around.
But the Word which sets in motion
such travails can make them cease;
that same voice which tumult beckons
in a gentler breath speaks peace.
—Michael Morgan © 2011 Michael Morgan admin. Faith Alive Christian Resources
Michael Morgan (b. 1948) is a church musician, Psalm scholar, and collector of English Bibles and Psalters from Atlanta, Georgia. After almost 40 years, he now serves as Organist Emeritus for Atlanta’s historic Central Presbyterian Church, and as Seminary Musician at Columbia Theological Seminary. He holds degrees from Florida State University and Atlanta University, and did post-graduate study with composer Richard Purvis in San Francisco. He has played recitals, worship services, and master classes across the U. S., and in England, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany. He is author of the Psalter for Christian Worship (1999; rev. 2010), and a regular contributor in the field of psalmody (most recently to the Reformed collections Psalms for All Seasons and Lift Up Your Hearts, and the new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God). (Hymnary.org)
Use whatever instruments are available and sing with power and sing with gusto. When you get to the end of the second stanza, however, decrease the volume of the accompaniment and singing to gently conclude with the words, “in a gentler breath speaks peace”.
The singing of this hymn can be preceded with the reading of Psalm 29. A responsive suggested reading is found in Psalms for All Seasons, along with a prayer.