I first sang the hymn "toi qui gardes le silence" at a ministers' retreat on the French shores of lake Geneva. We were looking over the water in the evening to the Swiss Canton de Vaud which is where the hymn origintated. There are not many hymns in French which take up a theme of social responsibility or offer new images of God and I was immediately drawn to this hymn written by the Commission jeunesse of the Eglise réformée du Canton de Vaud. It has a wonderful minor key melody by Olivier Nusslé - no MP3 available anywhere I'm afraid, I'm going to have to try and record it sometime.
I'm writing about it today becuase I have at last had a chance to read through the hymnbook that was produced for the CEC assembly, Gloria Deo. A rather good English translation of Toi qui gardes le silence is included in it - done by Isabelle Bousquet and Karina Graham.
One of the problems with the ubiquity of English is that it is very often English-language culture that gets exported and this is also very often true of spirituality and of hymns - Graham Kendrick is more likely to get translated than Claude Fraysse or writers from another language or culture. (If you also don't like "Shine Jesus shine" just try singing one of the other language versions where the lingusitic triteness is shall we say often further enhanced by translation!) So I was pleased to see this small effort in the opposite direction.
I was also glad to see Federico Pagura's wonderful Tenemos esperanza in Gloria Deo. Bishop Julio Ernesto Murray the President of CLAI, the Latin American Council of Churches, sang a verse of the hymn at the end of his hope-filled address to the assembly. Unfortunately one of the few hymn books on general sale which has Tenemos esperanza in it is currently out print - Agape published by OUP is a great resource so here's hoping that they will reprint soon.
Meanwhile here's the last verse of Toi qui gardes le silence in English - not quite the same without the great music but here you go:
Your world calls us to commitment
For your cause Lord we strive
In a world disintegrating,
your love, reinvigorating,
makes us new. You are strong.
We will follow you, our song.