Lift ev'ry voice and sing till earth and heaven ring,
ring with the harmonies of liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise high as the list'ning skies,
let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us;
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast'ning rod,
felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet
come to the place for which our parents sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered;
we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
thou who hast by thy might led us into the light,
keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee;
lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee;
shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand,
true to our God, true to our native land.
In the Bronx, our congregation regularly sang this hymn by James W. Johnson, recognized as a black national anthem. We'd sing it as a lament for our disgraced racialized society; as a joyous hymn of hope; as a memorial to all who struggled for racial integration and reconciliation; in honor of persons like Viola, who died too young. She was a granddaughter of the slave system in Meridian, Mississippi. She fled north with her husband, working to build a family who could sing faith with integrity and dignity in a new land.
This hymn is both lament and celebration. It gives black and white people a chance to see the grace of God as we worship in ways that move toward hope and justice. I invite you to sing with verve and hear the voice of faith through the counterpoint of struggle. I invite you to sing with all who struggle for the domestic tranquility promised in the Preamble to our Constitution. Or sing it with the faith of Christ, who welcomes all as sisters and brothers in love.
God of mercy, accompany your faithful to sing the joy of faith through the challenges we face as individuals, families, congregations, neighborhoods, and societies. Amen.