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Hymnology students encounter prolific hymn writer while touring England

JACKSON, Tenn.Aug. 30, 2004 – The Oxford Amsterdam summer 2004 study tour – led by Dr. Randall Bush, professor of Christian studies and philosophy, Dr. Chris Nadaskay, professor of art, and Dr. Mike Penny, associate professor of music – gave 15 Union University students life enriching experiences. Three hymnology students had an unforgettable encounter: music majors Rachel Conway, Erin Hale and Daniel Schafers, along with Penny, dined as guests in the Salisbury home of retired Anglican bishop and noted writer Timothy Dudley Smith and his wife Arlette.

According to Penny, the hymns of Bishop Dudley Smith are becoming highly regarded. Most newer American hymnals contain the great poems, “Tell Out, My Soul, the Greatness of the Lord” (#81, The Baptist Hymnal 1991), a hymn of praise that uses Mary’s Magnificat as point of departure, and the praise hymn “Name of All Majesty, Fathomless Mystery” (#207, The Baptist Hymnal; #116, The Celebration Hymnal 1997). The Baptist Hymnal contains five other Dudley Smith texts.

Dudley-Smith, born a schoolmaster’s son in 1926 in Manchester, England, studied at Cambridge and was ordained in the Church of England in 1950. In 1981 he was appointed Bishop of Thetford, a suffragan – or assistant – to the Bishop of Norwich. He now lives in retirement in Salisbury. His hymn texts, numbering more than 300, have won many awards. They are collected in four volumes. Dudley-Smith graciously gave each of his Union guests a copy of one of the volumes. The hymns have also been published under one cover in A House of Praise.

Dudley-Smith is the biographer of his friend John Stott who is the author of Basic Christianity and other titles. In 2003, Dudley-Smith was awarded the Order of the British Empire “for services to hymnody.” The Dudley Smiths have three adult children.

“I wrote to the bishop, offering to take him to lunch with my hymnology students,” Penny said, “but Bishop and Mrs. Dudley Smith prepared lunch in their home instead. Our students thus had a manifold blessing: dining in a British home with a charming couple, visiting with an Anglican bishop and conversing with a celebrated hymnist.”

Before lunch Dudley Smith took his four guests to the village of Bemerton, just outside Salisbury, to visit the tiny church where the great hymn writer and metaphysical poet George Herbert spent his life as rector.; The Union University Singers will sing the Vaughan Williams setting of Herbert’s “Let all the world in every corner sing” during Fall Convocation, on Friday, Sept. 3 in Savage Chapel.

Dudley-Smith also led the group to “Old Sarum,” the ancient ruins of the first cathedral, and Stonehenge.

“These students had a connection with a leader in contemporary Christianity,” Penny said. “We the Union family will have more encounters with Bishop Dudley Smith as well. Dr. Ron Boud of our music department has set a Dudley Smith text to music as the result of our trip, and Dr. Richard Joiner and the UU Singers have included an anthem to his words as part of their 2004 2005 repertory.”

Media contact: Tabitha Frizzell, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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