A House of Praise, Part Two
Beyond our Dreaming

Both by Timothy Dudley-Smith, published by OUP/Hope Publishing, prices £25.95 and £10.95

Reviewed by Dudley Coates

With the benefit of hindsight, one of the most surprising omissions from Hymns & Psalms, the 1983 Methodist hymn book, was Timothy Dudley-Smith’s moving hymn Lord for the Years. But doubtless its popularity postdates 1983.

Dudley-Smith’s work is represented in almost all modern hymn books. Last year I had the privilege of hearing him at an ArtServe regional day conference and then travelling most of the way home with him by train. These books demonstrate that he remains creative despite his age.

A House of Praise, Part Two contains all the hymns he wrote between 2002 and 2013 (plus a couple of extras) and brings together in one place the texts in Beyond our Dreaming (2012), A Door for the Word (2006) and Praise to the Name (2009). In both books, as well as hymn texts, are the notes which Dudley-Smith writes for each text including Biblical references and suggested tunes and excellent indices.

Both also contain fascinating forewords; that in Beyond our Dreaming explains why he keeps on writing even though, in accordance with Pareto’s Law, he expects only 20 per cent of his texts to be sung regularly. I found his references to poets as diverse as Charles Wesley, TS Eliot and Robert Frost fascinating, though he disavows comparisons!

And what of the 150 texts themselves? All are Biblical, with strong emphases on praise and on the life and work of Jesus. Most were written at Dudley-Smith’s retirement home near Salisbury. A House of Praise Part Two is organised thematically and includes new hymns for several saints days, a hymn for each of the 12 minor prophets as well as metrical psalms and other metrical scriptures.

My eye was caught by texts such as The hour has come foretold since time began (305) based on the seven words of Jesus from the cross, What are the praises earth can render Heaven (379) for which Highwood, a favourite tune of mine is suggested, Love is the law that Jesus taught (385) which ends ‘enlist us Lord, while here below, as learners in your school of love’ and for which three well known tunes are suggested.

I much prefer the gentler theology underlying Dudley-Smith’s In Christ is all I need (393) to the superficially similar and much debated In Christ alone by Getty and Townend. We have a dream who are the heirs (338), written for the bicentenary of Wesley Methodist Church, Cambridge would serve well for any church anniversary or patronal festival.

For most of the hymns well known tunes are suggested; for example, Our Father God who gave us birth was written in response to a commission seeking a funeral hymn to the tune Melita (known as the tune to Eternal Father, strong to save). The well-known folk tune Kingsfold is suggested for six hymns and some other tunes also feature several times. But a few items are to unusual metres; so, for example, the excellent hymn of praise Come let us tune our souls to sing is to a metre with, as yet, no published tune.

Users of HymnQuest will be pleased to know that these books are already indexed in that resource. I certainly commend both and will consider a number of the texts for use in services which I lead.

This review has also appeared in The Methodist Recorder and, in a shortened form, in ArtServe issue eleven.