Touch, Worship

Call to the Holy Spirit in Swahili

Gracious Spirit

Gracious Spirit, heed our pleading;
Fashion us all anew.
It’s Your leading that we’re needing;
Help us to follow you.

Refrain: Njoo, njoo, njoo, Roho mwema. Come, come, come, Holy Spirit come.

Come to teach us; come to nourish
Those who believe in Christ.
Bless the faithful; may they flourish,
Strengthened by grace unpriced. (Refrain)

Guide our thinking and our speaking
Done in Your holy name.
Motivate all in their seeking,
Freeing from guilt and shame. (Refrain)

Not mere knowledge, but discernment,
Nor rootless liberty;
Turn disquiet to contentment,
Doubt into certainty. (Refrain)

Keep us fervent in our witness;
Unswayed by earth’s allure.
Ever grant us zealous fitness,
Which You alone assure. (Refrain)

No. 166 in Songs of a New Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 2002)

WHAT HAPPENS after Pentecost Sunday?

Some churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, refer to the six months until Advent as “Ordinary Time” or the Sundays after Pentecost. It is a period of time in which there are no special days to mark sacred time. In such churches, the emphasis of this season is on proclaiming the Kingdom of God and the growth of the Church, and the liturgical colour is green.

The Methodist Church in Singapore, however, joins other churches in dividing the period between Pentecost Sunday and Advent into two seasons: Pentecost and Kingdomtide.

As explained by the Rev George Martzen, missionary with The United Methodist Church, in an article he wrote for the Sept 2002 issue of Methodist Message: “The season of Pentecost recalls the gift of the Holy Spirit and the evangelistic growth of the church.

“The season of Kingdomtide constitutes the 13 or 14 Sundays beginning the last Sunday in August and continuing until the beginning of Advent at the end of November.

“During the season of Kingdomtide we declare the values and glory of the Kingdom of God. Christ is celebrated as King and Sovereign of the world, with emphasis on God’s dominion over all of creation. The focus in this season is often on social justice and action that flows from a heart submitted to God.”

This means that if we follow the Methodist church year as described by the Rev Martzen, we still have to find appropriate hymns for the season of Pentecost.

If you would like to explore and consider hymns beyond the United Methodist Hymnal, here is one from Tanzania. It is a hymn that may be used as an Invocation. It is a sung prayer directed to the Holy Spirit for unity, renewal and discernment. This hymn was written by Wilson Niwagila, a native of Tanzania. It was written in 1965 while Wilson was thinking about the process of uniting together seven separate Tanzanian Lutheran congregations. Those seven churches have since grown into twenty districts comprising 2.2 million Christians.

The hymn “Gracious Spirit” has a simple melody using five notes: do-re-mi-fa-so in the key of G. The congregation can easily catch the tune within a minute.

Use the “Call and Response” style to create more interest. You may do it this way:

Leader: Gracious Spirit, heed our pleading

All: Fashion us all anew

Leader: It’s your leading that we’re needing

All: Help us to follow you.

Refrain (All): Njo-o, Njo-o, Njo-o Roho mwema.

Come, come, come Holy Spirit come.

With five stanzas, it is best that the role of the leader be shared between a female and a male. In doing so, there will be variation in each stanza and in the voices.

A percussion instrument (djembe or conga) may be used to accompany the song. Using both piano and percussion works as well.

Sing the refrain in both Swahili and English. By singing “Njo-o Roho mwe ma” (pronounced as Nyo-o roho – mwey mah) we taste a new language.

We may not have the gift of speaking a foreign language but to a certain extent, by making ourselves sing in Swahili we connect ourselves to the people in Tanzania; a people in a continent geographically far from us with a church facing serious challenges in various forms. May our singing be our prayer and may it be a sign of our solidarity with them.

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Judith Mosomos is  Lecturer in Church Music at the Methodist School of Music.