"A Night of Good News!”
In 1989, renown hymn poet, Brian Wren, led a conference at Southern Seminary. The weekend event turned out to be an educational and experiential milestone for me that included an unexpected celebration. At the conference’s opening event we sang from Wren’s brand-new collection, Bring Many Names, .and my experience with the metaphorical language of worship was forever changed. For the first time I joined my voice with a gathered congregation to sing of the Divine Feminine. I was deeply moved when singing Wren’s hymn texts that imaged God as “Mother” and “Sister.” This was most likely due to my being the only son in my family raised by a strong mother and three older sisters, along with my caring father. Until that time, the hymns of my church experience were dominated by patriarchal language. That evening I realized with conviction that the words we sing either oppress or uplift humanity. With eagerness to learn more, at a reception that followed the hymn-sing I excitedly purchased Wren’s new book, What Language Shall I Borrow? God-Talk in Worship: A Male Response to Feminist Theology. The understanding and inspiration gained from this book would prove to be incalculable in my life and work.
Dr. Wren inscribed the book’s flyleaf for me and my wife: “Signed on a night of good news! Cindy & Larry Schultz, Shalom! Brian Wren 22/9/89.” His inscription details memorable things about that night. The date commemorates that my wife and I had been married for just over 3 months, and this was the first professional event we eagerly attended as a married couple. An added joy for us was that the conference was held in the school’s music building connected to the seminary chapel where we had met three years earlier and where our wedding service had recently taken place. Wren’s “night of good news” inscription refers to the fact that when walking into the reception, my hymnology professor, Dr. Hugh McElrath, came to me to shake my hand and say: “Congratulations on your hymn making it into The Baptist Hymnal (1991)!” "What!" I joyfully exclaimed. (Dr. McElrath, who was on the hymnal’s committee, did not realize I had not yet heard that a hymn text I had written for his class was going to be included.) Still on an emotional high from singing the hymns of Brian Wren, I was overjoyed to hear that my first hymn would be published. As news of this surprise spread around the room, the congratulations of many friends grew to become a large group hug that moved around the room reminding us of the last scene of The Mary Tyler Moore Show! With his congratulations, Dr. Wren also asked me to send him a copy of the hymn for review. As he traveled home following the conference, he kindly composed a letter of suggestions and encouragement regarding the hymn and my writing.
Everything about that evening was exciting and memorable. It was indeed a “night of good news” in many respects, including my awakening to the good news of feminist and intersecting theologies in my own ministry. This experience was foundational to my creative work that would follow, including my connection and collaboration with feminist theologian, Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, which I celebrate in the next blog post.
After my initial introduction to Brian Wren at the Southern Seminary conference, I was fortunate to learn from him at two other conferences during my early years in church music ministry.
In 2003 it was a dream-come-true to have the opportunity to compose music for one of Brian Wren's hymn poems, "The Name We Have Begun to Know." My congregation, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, NC, hosted Dr. Wren for a weekend conference and commissioned from him this interfaith text for which I provided the tune, LOVE-SONG. It is published by Hope Publishing in Wren's hymnal, Christ Our Hope, and was included in a recording of selected hymns from the collection.
Hymn Score and Tune Recording:
In 2011 I was thrilled to win a hymn tune contest sponsored by Faith Alive Christian Resources for Wren's text, "We Are Your People." The publisher coupled the text with my tune, SPIRIT-PRAYER, in the Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal, a joint publication of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America.
Hymn Score and Tune Recording:
 Hope Publishing Company, 1989.
 Crossroad, 1989.
 “O God We Ask for Strength” (Hymn 498, The Baptist Hymnal, 1991).
 Selections from Christ Our Hope CD recorded by the choir of Armour Heights Presbyterian Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
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Larry E. Schultz is a Minister of Music, composer, hymn writer and teacher.