Professor wins second prize in justice song contest

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dr. Heather Josselyn-Cranson, associate professor of music and director of music ministries at Northwestern College, has won second prize in the Justice Congregational Song Contest sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Social Justice, Reformed Worship magazine, and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Josselyn-Cranson’s hymn, We Cannot Know What Worship Is, has been copyrighted by Faith Alive Christian Resources and will be printed in a future issue of Reformed Worship. Josselyn-Cranson received a $300 cash prize for her effort. In keeping with the justice theme, she plans to contribute a portion of her award to Northwestern’s chapter of International Justice Mission.

Josselyn-Cranson says as she wrote the hymn last summer she was struck by the fact that thinking about justice tends to happen more often outside Sunday worship than in it. Her text includes the following first verse: “We cannot know what worship is, unless we recognize that Christ consorts with least and lost and sees through homeless eyes.”

Other verses bring a justice perspective to the acts of praying, singing and reading Scripture. The hymn concludes with “God longs for us to act our faith, ‘til we can truly claim our Sunday worship and our search for justice are the same.”

The song committee paired Josselyn-Cranson’s text with a familiar tune, Land of Rest, which is a 19th-century Appalachian folk melody.

A member of Northwestern’s faculty since 2005, Josselyn-Cranson earned both a Doctor of Theology degree in liturgy and liturgical music and a Master of Sacred Music degree from Boston University. Previously the minister of education and music at Old West Church in Boston, she received a bachelor’s degree in music composition from Bates College.

A 1978 Northwestern College alumnus, the Rev. David Landegent, won first prize in the justice song contest. The pastor of Central Park Reformed Church in Holland, Mich., penned Let Justice Roll Down.

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