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Hymn History: Help Us Accept Each Other



Lyrics

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us;

teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace.

Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe

We are ourselves accepted, and meant to love and live.


Teach us, O Lord, your lessons, as in our daily life

We struggle to be human and search for hope and faith.

Teach us to care for people, for all, not just for some,

to love them as we find them, or as they may become.


Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved

In living situations to do the truth in love;

to practice your acceptance until we know by heart

The table of forgiveness, and laughter's healing art.


Lord, for today's encounters with all who are in need,

who hunger for acceptance, for justice, and for bread,

we need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding on;

renew us with your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one!


The words for the popular hymn “Help Us Accept Each Other” were written by Fred Kaan (1929-2009) in 1974, after reading a bible study article Jackie Mattonen had written for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. From there it was published in the fourth edition of Cantate Domino, ‘almost by accident,’ according to Kaan.

 

Fred Kaan was one of the four hymn writers in the 1960’s and 70’s that led the “hymnic explosion” in Great Britain. Despite most of his work being in Britain, he was born in Haarlem in the Netherlands in 1929. His family was not a religious one – until after they suffered the Nazi occupation. During the occupation he witnessed three of his grandparents die from starvation, and witnessed his parents work with the resistance movement and take refugees into their home.

 

This obviously had a profound influence on Kaan and led to him becoming a pacifist and attending church, where he was confirmed at the age of 18. He was ordained in 1955 at the Windsor Road Congregational Church in Barry, Glamorgan and from there he ministered to many people across Europe. Most notably at the Pilgrim Church in Plymouth where he first began his hymn writing. His hymns included original works and translations, and often focused on issues of peace and justice.

 

In 1977, American composer, and Ohio native, John Ness Beck wrote a four part anthem for Kaan’s words that became the most common tune paired with the song, heard in the video above. Though it does appear with other tunes, and other composers have written their own original tunes for the words throughout the years.

 

I wanted to end Pride month with this hymn, as I feel it truly expresses the acceptance of God’s love – a love that extends to all people, as we find them or as they may become. A line that I feel is particularly powerful for LGBTQIA+ folk, encouraging that even as we grow and better learn ourselves, no matter what that may be, we are still worthy of care and love.




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