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F. Bland Tucker

TUCKER, Francis Bland. b. Norfolk, Virginia, 6 January 1895; d. Savannah, Georgia, 1 January 1984. The son of an Episcopalian Church bishop, he was educated at school in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville (BA 1914). After service with the Medical Corps in World War I, he trained for the priesthood at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria (BD, 1920, h. c. DD, 1942). He was ordained (deacon 1918, priest 1920), serving parishes at Brunswick County, Virginia (1920-25), Georgetown, Washington, DC (1925-45), and Savannah, Georgia (1945-67). He was elected a bishop in 1945, but he declined the position, saying his ministry in Savannah had not been completed. On retirement he continued to live in the incumbent’s house at Savannah: his congregation thought so highly of him they named him rector-emeritus and presented him with the house as a very substantial retirement present.

Tucker was the only person to serve on the committees of both H40 and H82. He was honored at the church’s 1982 Convention by a testimonial that read in part: ‘His distinguished career in the parish ministry would have been enough for most people, but Bland Tucker, through his hymns, has served as a pastor to his national Church and to Christians throughout the world... Merely to catalogue his contributions to the Hymnal, 1940 is to demonstrate how greatly we would be impoverished without them.’ Bishop Paul Reeves, of the Diocese of Georgia, stated ‘Dr. Tucker's interest in and contributions to the new liturgy and hymnody of the Episcopal Church showed a flexibility and intellectual vitality truly remarkable in a man his age. . . It may sound trite, but I regard his death as the passing of an era.’

Six of his hymns or translations appeared in H40:

These were written in a language that was dignified and customary, but some of the lines have dated, and Tucker was quick to realise this.

He was a member of the texts committee of H82 and his influence was considerable. So were his contributions to the book. Examples of his translations or paraphrases include:

  • ‘O gracious Light, Lord Jesus Christ’, from the Greek Phos hilaron*, this three-verse translation written in 1976-77 (for the various drafts and processes seeThe Hymnal 1982 Companion, volume 3A, pp. 44-52, note to hymn 25/26).
  • ‘When Jesus went to Jordan’s stream’, from ‘Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam’*, by Martin Luther*, a paraphrase of selected verses (The Hymnal 1982 Companion, volume 3A, pp. 279-82, note to hymn 139).
  • ‘Alone thou goest forth, O Lord’, from Peter Abelard*.
  • ‘Father, we thank thee who hast planted’, from the Didache* (one of the earliest Christian writings, probably dating from the 2nd century and consisting of the supposed teaching of the twelve apostles).
  • ‘Holy God, we praise thy name’, a metrical version of the first part of the ‘Te Deum’* based on a German text, ‘Grosser Gott, wir loben dich’. The version in H40 was enlarged by three stanzas in H82. It is also in UMH.
  • ‘All glory be to God on high’, a translation of a German paraphrase of the ‘Gloria in excelsis’ (see Doxology*) by Nikolaus Decius, ‘Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr’ (for the German text and tune see The Hymnal 1982 Companion, volume 3B, pp. 789-92, note to hymn 421).
  • ‘O all ye works of God, now come’, a metrical version of the ‘Benedicite’*.
  • ‘From God Christ’s deity came forth’, a paraphrase of an Easter hymn by Ephrem the Syrian*.
  • ‘Thou art our mighty Lord’, a translation of a hymn by Clement of Alexandria, from his Paedogogus. In H40 it began ‘Master of eager youth’: stanza 1 was omitted in H82, and ‘Thou art’ changed to ‘Jesus’.
  • ‘The great Creator of the worlds’, a paraphrase from the Epistle to Diognetus, ca. 150; it has been altered in H82 from the text in H40 to avoid the use of non-inclusive language.
  • ‘The Lord my God my shepherd is’, a paraphrase of Psalm 23.

Additions, alterations, or reworking by Tucker in H82 include:

In H82 many of Tucker’s hymns were updated and modified to take account of changes in language since H40. Probably his best known new hymns since H40 are ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise from death’* and ‘Christ, when for us you were baptized’*.

By this time he was regarded as ‘the dean of American hymn writers’. The description is by Russell Schulz-Widmar (Russell E. Schulz*) in The Hymn, whose obituary tribute to Tucker described him with respect and affection: ‘He considered himself to be in many ways an heir of John Wesley who had preceded him by 200 years as rector of Christ Church, Savannah. Like Wesley, he came to realize that the whole world was his parish and that hymn writing was part of his ministry’ (John Wesley was never instituted as rector, but the principal sentiment is certainly true).

He was elected a Fellow of the Hymn Society of America (later The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada*) in 1980.

JRW/CY

Further Reading

  1. Russell Schulz-Widmar, ‘F. Bland Tucker, 1895-1984’, The Hymn 35/2 (April, 1984), pp. 117-18.
  2. Obituary, F. Bland Tucker, January 19, 1984, Episcopal Press and News, Archives of the Episcopal Church. <http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/ENS/ENSpress_release.pl?pr_number=84006>
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