The Moravian Music Foundation preserves, shares, and celebrates Moravian musical culture.
Maybe you’ve been at a Moravian gathering where it was sung.
Maybe you’ve sung it yourself for someone.
Maybe you’re reading this going “sung what?”
The “Moravian Birthday Hymn” is one of a genre of hymns known by Moravians as Segensverse (blessing hymns). It is used as a prayer of blessing for a birthday, and also at times of parting and farewell. We often sing it at the end of a retreat or conference, as a prayer for the retreat leader.
The words of this hymn, Moravian Book of Worship hymn 447, were written by Christian Gregor (1723-1801), and translated into English by John Swertner for the 1789 English Moravian hymnal. It was slightly revised for the 1995 Moravian Book of Worship. Sung to the Moravian tune COVENANT, the hymn is deeply moving to those for whom it is sung – especially those new to Moravian tradition, who haven’t experienced this before. The hymn can be easily adapted for many occasions by changing the pronouns that are in italics in the text below.
Take the time to memorize this hymn, and encourage your brothers and sisters in the faith to do likewise.
But how do you memorize a hymn? First, I hand-write them in my journal. There’s something about the act of physically writing down the words that makes them easier to remember than just typing them into my computer, or even worse, doing “cut and paste”. Sing it over and over to yourself, and let these words sink into your heart. And listen to this for the tune, here played by the American Brass Quintet Brass Band on the CD A Storm in the Land.
Also, print the hymn in large type and place on the wall in your choir room or Sunday-school room, or even paste into your choir folders. Make a practice of honoring birthdays with these words instead of the familiar (and trite) “happy birthday to you” song. This conveys thoughtful prayer as well as happy good wishes, and brings deep blessing to the recipient.
With your presence, Lord, our Head and Savior,
bless him now, we humbly pray; (substitute her or them)
our dear heavenly Father’s love and favor
be his comfort every day. (her, their)
May God’s Spirit now in each proceeding
favor him with his most gracious leading; (her, them)
thus shall he be truly blessed, (she, they)
both in labor and in rest.