Hymn of the week: Where cross the crowded ways of life

Quiet Sunday afternoon in Camden Town

Where cross the crowded ways: A quiet Sunday afternoon in Camden Town

The choice of this hymn in worship this morning was inspired by the opening line of the third verse:

The cup of water given for thee
still holds the freshness of thy grace

– a clear reference to Matthew 10:42, the concluding verse of the lectionary Gospel.

But as one of the earliest (and still, lamentably, few) hymns written fromn an explicitly urban context, it is always worth singing.

The author of the hymn, Frank M. North (1850-1935) was a Methodist minister who was born and later spent much of his career in New York. He drew on this experience when he was challenged by the editor of the Methodist Hymnal (1905) to write a hymn about city life. It first appeared in The Christian City (1903), a magazine which North edited.

Introduced to the UK, the hymn was included in the Methodist Hymn Book (1933). It was sung at the opening service of Archway Central Hall the following year, a highly appropriate choice considering that church was built where five roads met, at one of the busiest junctions in North London.

Where cross the crowded ways of life,
where sound the cries of race and clan,
above the noise of selfish strife,
we hear thy voice, O Son of Man.

In haunts of wretchedness and need,
on shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
from paths where hide the lures of greed,
we catch the vision of thy tears.

The cup of water given for thee
still holds the freshness of thy grace;
yet long these multitudes to see
the sweet compassion of thy face.

O Master, from the mountain side,
make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
among these restless throngs abide,
O tread the city’s streets again;

Till all the world shall learn thy love,
and follow where thy feet have trod;
till glorious from thy heaven above,
shall come the city of our God.

Frank Mason North (1850-1935)

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About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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