Hymn #110: Now Bless the God of Israel

            Ruth C. Duck (b. 1947) paraphrased the Benedictus found in Luke 1:68-79 for this text.  The biblical passage is also known as the “Canticle of Zechariah,” who was the father of John the Baptizer.  Duck’s hymn was first sung in 1985 at an annual meeting of the UCC Massachusetts Conference for a morning prayer service.

           Ruth Duck was an early advocate for using inclusive language in hymns and decided to use her gifts for artistic rather than political expression through writing hymn adaptations and new texts for the Ecumenical Women’s Center in Chicago, Illinois.  She coedited Because We Are One People for that organization in 1974.

           FOREST GREEN is the name given this traditional English tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who first heard it in Surrey, England.  The song was an old narrative ballad called “The Ploughboy’s Dream.”  The harmonization is one of many that Vaughan Williams composed for The English Hymnal (1906).

           Traditional English melodies are used as settings for at least seventeen hymns in The New Century Hymnal.  FOREST GREEN is a particular favorite, appearing twice, with this hymn and with “All Beautiful the March of Days.”