A thoughtful talent worth exploring
Nowadays, the 24 hymns contained in Faith Will Sing are hardly new. This is one of Dan Damon’s earliest collections. However, to many British Methodists, Damon will be a new voice. Three of his hymns are featured in Singing the Faith, including “Eat this bread and never hunger”, taken from this 1993 collection. With a touch of Andrew Lloyd Webber in its melody (multi-talented Dan Damon supplies his own tunes), it’s likely to become a favourite at Communion services.
Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Richmond, California, Damon teaches church music at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and moonlights as a light music pianist at clubs in the San Francisco area. You can see the influence of these experiences in his words and music – always accessible, often challenging. Take, for example, his probing reflections on God’s role and intentions in the crucifixion of Jesus; “What kind of God would be content as Jesus cried and bled?” Damon enquires in one hymn; “Jesus’ death was not God’s need, but to offer grace”, he concludes in another.
His experience as a pastor informs words that help congregations reflect on their present (“This will be a place of prayer, of praise, of honest tears”) and future (“Know every leaf on every tree must turn and die to be set free”). Those last words were written out of Damon’s grief on leaving his first parish but this is also a text that many might find useful at other times of personal loss.
Elsewhere, a number of hymns treat the experience of children with refreshing honesty (including Anna Briggs’ lullaby “Stay, my child” – one of two texts in the collection by other authors). Damon also turns helpfully to the stories of women and men in the Bible. In “Joseph, son of an ancient king” he questions Jesus’ father about his role and dreams; while “I will set my bow in the clouds” examines God’s signs of love in the lives of Noah, Sara, Moses and King David.
Don’t be misled by the seeming simplicity of many of the words and tunes in this collection. Typically, “Spirit of Christ, remember me” has an easy, Taizé-like melody but this belies an unusual harmony that moves subtly towards musical intimations of hope and God’s loving embrace. Here, as in his contributions to Singing the Faith, through both words and music Damon refreshes our views of faith and scripture – a gift to anyone who wishes to make worship ever new.
Editor, Singing the Faith Plus
See Dan Damon’s hymns in Singing the Faith: 163, 211, 582