Here comes another Hymn, this one comes with a tie to St. Cloud Minnesota, a place in which I enjoy visiting on occasion (the Benton County Fair being one of them!)!
Title: Come to Me, All Pilgrims Thirsty
Tune: Beach Spring
Composer: Benjamin Franklin White (September 20th, 1800-December 5th, 1879)
Author: Delores Dufner (B. 1939)
Sister Delores Dufner, a member of the Benedictine Sisters, is one of the best known hymn composers in the world today. She has had hymns published in over twenty different hymnals, including hymnals printed in Australia, Canada, and England. She first performed this hymn in 1982, paired with a tune composed by Jay F. Hunstiger, in St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud Minnesota. The hymn was performed as a communion song at the annual Chrism Mass, when the Bishop with bless the oils used in the sacraments such as Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and in the anointing of the sick. The hymn was first published with Hunstiger’s tune in the 1989 publication of The Order of Christian Funerals: Funeral Mass (Collegeville). “Come to Me, All Pilgrims Thirsty,” also appeared in the 1997 Schiller Park hymnal We Celebrate, where the revised version of the first three stanza’s were paired with the tune “Holy Manna (see hymns “God Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens,” and “All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly.”)” which is also seen in People’s Mass Book (Schiller Park, 2003). The Hymn has been seen in England under the title “Jesus, Ever-Flowing Fountain,” With a setting by Australian composer, Rosalie Bonighton, which was published in several different hymnals, including the Chinese Christian Literature Council Bilingual Hymns of Universal Praise (2006).
One advantage of researching a hymn composed by someone who is still living is that we get to hear the reasons the composer has for writing the hymn.
“This text was inspired primarily by the lengthy dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). I have always loved this account of the assertive woman who dared to challenge Jesus. When she questioned him about his request for a drink, he responded ‘If you only knew what God is offering…’ Jesus’ words to her might well be addressed to each of us: if we really understood the good that God wants to do for us, we would come to Christ gladly and freely to find life, refreshment, and forgiveness. These gifts are offered in a special way at the Eucharistic table.
I drew on two other scripture texts for this hymn. The first is John 7:37-39, in which Jesus cries out, ‘let anyone who is thirsty come to me and let the one who believes in me drink.’ The second is Matthew 11:28-30, in which Jesus invites the weary and heavily burdened to come to him for rest, ‘for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Because the words of the stanzas are Jesus’ and the words of the refrain are our response, I suggest that they be sung by different groups, e.g., stanzas by choir and refrain by congregation, or stanzas by women and refrain by men.” (Westermeyer, p 644), (See bibliography #1).
The tune “Beach Spring” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin White, who with the help of Elisha J. King, published The Sacred Harp (Philadelphia, 1844), where it was sung with the text of “Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched.” Named after the Beach Spring Baptist Church in Harris County, Georgia, the church was given its name because of its close proximity to “two beech trees at a spring…(Westermeyer, p. 269).” Although the original spelling of the name should be “Beech,” White’s misspelling “Beach,” has stuck with the hymn throughout the ages. White was mostly a self-taught singing school teacher from South Carolina. Eventually he moved to Hamilton in Harris County, Georgia, where he worked at many different vocations, including a stint in the Georgia Militia. Eventually White married Thurza Golightly, and together the two had 14 children (the same number of children that White’s parents had). At some point along the timeline of Benjamin Franklin White’s history, a rumor was started that he worked closely with William Walker (who was his brother-in-law) to publish Southern Harmonies, but this rumor was probably not true. The two books were wildly popular in the south, but both contained the same southern white spirituals which were popular in the more rural areas. In the 20th century, the tunes from The Sacred Harp, and Southern Harmonies entered into more denominational hymnals and inspired many different composers to arrange the melodies in various ways. The Sacred Harp is one of the most used books in the four-shape notation, and has gone through numerous editions that have been published throughout the years, and even to the present days.
V1. “Come to me, all pilgrims thirsty;
Drink the water I will give.
If you knew what gift I offer,
You would come to me and live.”
Refrain. Jesus, Ever flowing fountain,
Give us water from your well.
In the gracious gift you offer
There is joy no tongue can tell.
V2. “Come to me, all trav’lers weary;
Come that I may give you rest.
Drink the cup of life I offer;
At this table be my guest.”
V3. “Come to me, believers burdened;
Find refreshment in this place.
Come, receive the gift I offer,
Turn to me and seek my face.”
V4. “Come to me, repentant sinners;
Leave behind your guilt and shame.
Come and know divine compassion,
Turn to me, I call your name.”
My Take on the Hymn:
This hymn is a wonderful reminder that Christ does not care what you have done in the past, but rather what you will do from this point forward. Jesus says to us in John 4, “If you only knew what God is offering…” which speaks volumes to the world today. If people only knew the love that Christ has for us, and the love that is waiting for us, the ecstatic crowds of people running to Christ would be incredible. Christ is calling us, and he is calling us today. In stanza 1, Christ invites us all to the fountain of life, and he also tells us that if we but only open our eyes to the gift that he is giving us, we will turn and run to him. Stanza 2 really references Matthew 11: 28-30, by telling us that if we are weary, we should come to Christ and leave all of our struggles with Him. Being a college student- with all of the stress that accompanies mid-terms, juries, friends, time management, as well as everything else that goes on in life- Christ wants to take it for us, he is there to give us a break. Stanza 3 reminds us that it isn’t easy being a follower if Christ. As followers of Christ, we find ourselves going against the grain of society, and doing what we think is right, not always what is popular, and there lies the challenge. Whatever those challenges may be, God is there to help you through them and to refresh you every time you partake in the receiving of communion (or the Eucharist for those who are Catholic). Stanza 4 is my favorite, this is the verse that tells us to turn away from ourselves and turn to Christ. We have all sinned, and we all have shame to bare, but through Christ, our sins are forgiven, and we no longer need to carry the burden of shame! Christ calls us to be with Him, because he loves us no matter the life we have lived up to the day we turn to Him. There is no better time than right now to turn away from the life you are leading now, and to follow Christ!
Unfortunately I was not able to find music for this hymn. At a later point I will have an update with the music, as soon as I can get over to the Library to use the scanner! But, in the meantime, here is the youtube video.
Westermeyer, Paul. "Hymn No. 777." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 269+. Print.