Holy River Never Failing

An anti-racism hymn, sung to the tune of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” 8787D

Holy River Never Failing
Copyright © 1999 Bret Hesla. bret.hesla@gmail.com

1. Holy River never failing,
Here we stand and look to you.
Pour your presence now upon us.
Come and christen us anew.
You have named us all your people.
You have birthed us as your own.
You’ve restored us, wholly family,
In your Spirit flowing down.

2. Empty promises divide us.
Empty goals stand in our way.
We renounce the many “isms”
That turn “we” to “we and they.”
We acknowledge our involvement.
We have all dividers been.
Make us healers of division,
As your family we defend.

3. Keep us mindful of our oneness
In your water’s wide embrace.
Give us eyes to see our kinship
Everywhere in every face.
May we learn the way of Jesus,
Learn to challenge and to serve.
May we learn to live together,
Loving all without reserve.

4. Holy River, flow upon us
Come and green our wilted vines.
We are thirsting for your justice;
Now your realm our only wine.
Give us courage to be faithful.
May we know we’re not alone.
Give us joy in our reunion
With our siblings finally known.


A few years ago I heard Joe Barndt of Crossroads (Chicago) give a talk on how we are all antiracist by the vows of our baptism. The gist of the talk was that God’s purpose in Christian faith is to reunite all people as one human family, to make us whole again. The two questions of baptism, “Do you confess the faith in which you are baptized?” and “Do you renounce the forces of evil…?” could be rephrased as “Do you believe you are being made a part of the restored family of God?” and “Do you promise to defend the restored family of God from anything that would break it up again?” When we say “Yes,” we vow to defend the family and resist all that would break it apart – racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, militarism, nationalism, ableism. I hope this song helps further the work we all need to do – both as individuals and as communities– to become anti-racists.
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