Remixing A (Mostly) Beloved Hymn to Prompt Faith Reflection

Remixing A (Mostly) Beloved Hymn to Prompt Faith Reflection

I believe invitations to remix the tradition, even slightly irreverently, are a profound opportunity to help our people love and claim both the tradition and, ultimately, the God who makes all creative action possible and fruitful.

Remixing as Prayer

As the success of Lent Madness proves, it makes sense that we join our voices to admire the beatified and identify with our favorites among the faithful. I chose to try to tap into another area of deep-seated saint-related passion: people’s love (or hate!) of “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” Also known as “that ‘fierce wild beast’ hymn,” it’s either the one you look forward to all year, or the one you plug your nose and just get through. Here’s a verse to jog your memory—or introduce you:

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and God’s love made them strong;
and they followed the right, for Jesus’ sake,
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast:
and there’s not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn’t be one too.

For those keeping score at home, these saints in question are Martin of Tours, John Donne, and Ignatius of Antioch, respectively.

Some New Verses for “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”

Our collective efforts to add some new verses, and some new saints, to this hymn started with a Facebook post: “If someone were going to, let’s say, I dunno, write more verses of “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” which saints would you want to be obliquely referenced and why?”

Before too long, 124 comments wove together dozens of people’s lyrical arguments for their favorites. Some of the saints proposed have their own official days on the calendar, and others inspire faith in less formal ways. In fact, my favorite of the remixed verses to emerge from our conversation is about two modern day saints who have shared love and inspiration with so many of us, Prince and RuPaul (thanks for the suggestion, Sandra Montes!):

The saints we seek are each unique,
formed whole in the image of God.
And some have born their culture’s scorn,
called dreamers, freaks, or odd.
And one brought us Drag Race while looking divine;
one bold purple prophet wrote Sign ‘O’ the Times.
All are called to the feast like it’s 1999.
“No exceptions,” proclaim these two.

I also enjoyed hearing about how others have remixed this hymn over the years; my pal Lisa Brown told me some members of her youth group once wrote their own verse about Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. “They are Pittsburgh kids at heart,” she said. Indeed, faith formation prompts that invite creativity are great at getting to matters of the heart. When we design activities around remixing hymns, rewriting prayers, visualizing Bible verses, listening to pop music, or even use emojis to interpret the theology of the church, we tell our people that their deep longings and their personally meaningful practices matter to the life of faith. We acknowledge that the content of faith (our sacred beliefs and rituals) only truly take root when we make room for integration. Each person needs to discern for themselves how the Holy Spirit is shaping their lives through religion and spirituality, and how they want to respond.

I believe invitations to remix the tradition, even slightly irreverently, are a profound opportunity to help our people love and claim both the tradition and, ultimately, the God who makes all creative action possible and fruitful.


Kyle Matthew Oliver is an Episcopal priest and doctoral student studying educational media. His website Creative Commons Prayer features spiritual prompts and resources to reuse and remix. Kyle co-produces and edits The Way of Love with Bishop Michael Curry, and he is podcasting about his dissertation research in a show called Faith-Adjacent.

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