News - Alumnus Damon Receives Highest Honors as Hymn Writer

Alumnus Damon Receives Highest Honors as Hymn Writer

By Carla Morris Alumnus Damon Receives Highest Honors as Hymn Writer

It’s hard to explain the nuts and bolts of inspiration. For pastor Dan Damon ’77, memories stirred when one of his parishioners talked “shop.” Creativity followed.

Fran Smith worked for the rights of seriously impaired children. Damon, Fran’s pastor at First United Methodist Church in Richmond, CA, could relate. His father was born with cerebral palsy. He harbored images of his father struggling to talk, read and walk.    

When Fran said, “My child is not broken. My child does not need to be fixed,” Damon understood.

Writing & Creativity Integral to Prayer

For Damon, a pastor and musician, writing hymns is integral to his prayer life. The exchange with Fran led him to create a social justice hymn that shows the power of a mother’s love and her discoveries in caring for her children.

My child is a flower,

a joy to be shared.

My child has been labeled

“severely impaired.”

I have no instructions

but nurture and care.

Come see, in my garden,

a flower so rare.

“Communities of faith can learn how to pray with and walk beside these children and their families,” explains Damon, who often writes for the congregational voice.

He strives to “keep things simple and singable while exploring the edges of our spoken and sung faith.” For example:  

My child has emotions,

a will, and a name.

The needs of God’s children

are always the same:

to live to the fullest,

their own work of art,

with faith and forgiveness,

deep gifts of the heart.

 

Named Fellow of Hymn Society

Damon has earned recognition as one of the most respected and eloquent Wesleyan poets of our time. In July, The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada (The HSUSC) bestowed another honor by naming him a fellow.

In a press release, the Society said, “This award, the highest honor given, was conferred because of Damon’s work as a hymn-text writer, hymn-tune composer, editor, and teacher, as well as his significant contributions to The HSUSC.”

In addition to shepherding his congregation, Damon also serves as associate editor of hymnody for Hope Publishing Company in Carol Stream, Illinois. He is an internationally published writer of hymn texts and tunes. Many major hymnals and supplements include his work.

The Hymn, A Platform for Social Justice

Social justice issues spark ideas for Damon, who draws from his church’s urban, multi-cultural setting for material. Many of his hymns, like the hymn he dedicated to Fran Smith, convey hope:

A child, when supported

by wisdom and grace,

can teach many lessons,

can love and embrace.

So nurture the body,

the spirit, the mind,

and trust that our Maker 

is loving and kind.

 

Our goal is not safety,

our goal is to live,

to touch one another

with love as we give.

Come celebrate with me

and learn something new.

This flower is blooming

for me and for you.*

All of This and Jazz Worship Too

Also an accomplished jazz pianist, Damon created Jazz Worship, an online collection of jazz arrangements of traditional hymn tunes and carols specifically designed for congregational singing.

His most recent hymns are posted with Hope Publishing Company’s online hymnody and are available there for free download.

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*WORDS and MUSIC 2015 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

This story was published on August 08, 2016




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