Photo Credit: Chris Harris Photography
This article dated July 30, 2017, is reprinted from the web site of our companion diocese, the Territory of the People. Dean Ken Gray from Kamloops visited Christ Church Cathedral last year.
A new hymn text FLAMES OF DANGER, THREAT’NING, HOV’RING written by the Very Rev. Ken Gray, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kamloops BC, Canada captures the anxiety, power, and threatening presence evoked by wildfires which currently engulf the interior of the Province of British Columbia.
Wildfires are not uncommon in the tinder dry forested interior, but this summer of 2017 has seen an unprecedented number of catastrophic and unpredictable fires and the season is still young.
Wildfires have affected one way or another every parish within the Territory of the People. Many of our congregations have been evacuated from their communities. It appears that some parishioners have lost property and their livelihood is threatened. Many have suffered from prolonged exposure to smoke. Anxiety and uncertainty is everywhere.
Wildfires are increasing in number and intensity in many dioceses and provinces of the Anglican Communion including the southwestern United States, in central Portugal and throuhout Australia.
In Canada, only a year ago, the City of Fort MacMurray was ravaged by fire and likewise the community of Slave Lake Alberta a year earlier. Extreme weather events, including wildfire exposure is the new norm for many congregations and dioceses globally.
In writing the text, Dean Gray is careful to acknowledge the emotions such a text may stir for some recently dislocated persons and congregations. The foreboding tune Ebenezer well suits the text which is at times anxious, and at other times hopeful. Despite its vicissitudes, Creation remains a gift of God to all God’s creatures, human and non-human alike. Creation however embodies risk, challenge, at times danger, yet also beauty.
The text acknowledges the tremendous community response seen the the BC interior. It is in part a testament to communal resilience in the face of danger. The text also celebrates the gift of water, and the refreshment and new life it brings.
Dean Gray thanks hymn-writers Gordon Light and Herbert O’Driscoll for suggestions and assistance. Folks are welcome to reproduce and perform the hymn in congregational settings. Please send notification of use and feedback here. The text works best with EBENEZER 8787D. Original music is welcome and encouraged.
Flames of danger, threat’ning, hov’ring
Tongues of fire, we fear your power.
Angry tempest of destruction
Anxious breath, uncertain hour.
Force of beauty, source of terror
Threatening all before its stride;
Raging through the living forest,
All destroying far and wide.
First the spark and next the flourish,
Then the running racing flame
Tumbling out in all directions,
Fuelled by wind-blown dry terrain.
Those who travel seeking safety
To survive the searing heat,
Know the waiting and the worry,
Wondering when they next will meet.
Fire that cleanses, fire that lightens,
Fire that makes a friendly blaze;
Fire that cooks what keeps us living,
Summer comforts, happy days;
Give us water, Great Creator,
Open skies, your moisture share.
Heal, O God, our wounded landscape;
Freshen land and hopes laid bare.
Through the smoke, amidst the ashes,
Christ you walk on wounded feet,
Guiding those whose skill and vigour
Brave the searing flames and heat.
In your church and in our homeland
We now offer grateful prayer;
Celebrating your Creation
And your Presence everywhere.
Copyright, Kenneth J. Gray; July 2017