This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in October 2003. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news
New University Hymn Premieres at Homecoming
Christ of the Mountain, be our Word
Eastern Mennonite University Hymn
Christ of the mountain, be our Word;
your teachings are our rock.
We hear your voice call out our names
to live in patterns you have shaped,
reversing powers, making peace
by giving of ourselves, our needs,
Jesus, our teacher, friend.
Christ of the desert, be our strength;
our world, so full, is bare
without your presence, and we choose
to fill our days with empty views.
When tempters lure us, show the way
you walked, rejecting ease and fame,
Jesus our tower and hope.
Christ of the grapevine, be our feast,
our hungers seek your food.
You call us to abide in you,
to let your breath and pulse flow through,
to live in unity, to taste
the tang of penitence, of grace,
Jesus our wine and bread.
Christ of all people, be our light
in every darkened place.
As you walked freely through the streets
to heal the wealthy and the weak,
walk with us. May your glowing face
shine through to every tribe and race,
Jesus, our light, our all!
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Eastern Mennonite University
Several years from now, when current Eastern Mennonite University students return to their alma mater for homecoming, they will likely arrive carrying a new university hymn in their heads and hearts, ready to sing.
That was the driving purpose behind the multi-year "birthing" of a new university hymn, which was unveiled during this fall's homecoming weekend.
In 1999, an alumnus approached Encore!, the music department's alumni support network, and suggested that the group create a new school song. They readily agreed that the old alma mater was "outdated and that people simply didn't sing it anymore," noted John W. Fast, Encore's music department representative.
Encore's first move was to hold a competition for the song's text, offering a $1,000 award to the winning entry as incentive. The "text committee" reviewed the entries, but nothing emerged as a strong choice. "We wanted poetry, something lyrical with meaningful imagery and grace," said Jay B. Landis, professor of English and committee member.
The committee then thought of Jean Janzen, a leading Mennonite poet and hymn writer from Fresno, Calif., who has been artist-in-residence at EMU seven times over the past decade.
Rethinking the project as a "hymn" rather than "school song," the committee commissioned Janzen to write the lyrics.
Of the writing process, Janzen said, "So much of the efforts and vision of the school match the deep convictions I hold about faith and education. I reviewed the mission statement of EMU and the memories of my experience with colleagues and students during my teaching sessions. I conceived the text as a prayer, being alive both to students who sing it and [to] all of us who are on the journey of faith."
Janzen submitted two options for the lyrics. The text committee picked one and handed it over to the "tune committee," who launched a second competition, this time for music to accompany the text. They also offered a $1,000 award and received 60 submissions.
This spring, the tune committee narrowed the 60 down to seven. A hand-picked choir performed all seven at a public hearing in Martin Chapel and the audience provided written feedback.
After considering audiences responses, the tune committee identified submission number 60 as the contest winner. The alumni office, which withheld the composers' identities, revealed Shirley Bustos of Valparaiso, Ind., as the artist of the chosen tune.
Bustos is a graduate of Goshen (Ind.) College with a B.A. degree in music education. Her music compositions have been performed in schools, churches and universities. She currently teaches music and directs the adult choir and children's music ministry at Valparaiso Mennonite Church.
The hymn, titled "Christ of the mountain, be our Word", was performed at the Sunday morning worship service during homecoming weekend. A choir sang the hymn one stanza at a time and the audience repeated it in unison, then sang the entire selection in four-part acapella harmony near the close of the service.
Encore's hope is that the hymn will become part of commencements, homecomings, inaugurations and special convocations.
"Hopefully, anyone who goes through this institution will know the song and [it will be] one thing we all have in common," said Faye Yoder, Encore! president.
EMU owns the copyright for the text and the music but will grant permission for their use in non-EMU settings.
"It's not an alma mater song. EMU isn't mentioned in it," said Fast. "We think of it as a newly-commissioned hymn that reflects EMU's values, but they're values that can be important in a lot of different contexts."
Kristine Sensenig, a 2003 EMU graduate, is a student in EMU's graduate counseling program.