"They cast their nets" penned by Delta luminary, William Alexander Percy

The richness of our three-year lectionary cycle of Scripture readings brings our faith and worship practices to life by helping us relive the events in the life of Jesus each year. Moreover, if we read the lessons for Daily Morning and Evening Prayer and attend Sunday Eucharist each week, over the three years, we will have read the entire Holy Bible.

Personally, I have never attempted this feat, nor do I know many Episcopalians who have. However, the opportunity and challenge is there. 

Of course, most of the stories and events in Jesus’ life are told in each lectionary cycle, the “red-letter feast days,” if you will. And then many other stories, encounters, parables, etc., are found in two of the three cycles, if not each year.

For years, I have affectionately called the Third Sunday after the Epiphany “Fishers of People Sunday,” the account of the calling of Peter, James and John into ministry by Jesus. Year A and Year B of the lectionary cycle includes this Gospel lesson on Epiphany III;  Year C does not.

This Sunday, we sing a beloved, precious text that is perfect for the occasion. “They cast their nets in Galilee” was written by attorney and poet William Alexander Percy (1885-1942), a native of Greenville, Mississippi, and a graduate of Sewanee. (These facts alone make Percy practically a native Memphian.)

The words are simple in themselves, calling to mind “happy, simple fisherfolk.” For this reason, this hymn was included in the list of Hymns for Children in The Hymnal 1940 and is still found in The Hymnal 1982, now beloved by many grown-up children.

The tune Georgetown was composed by David McK. Williams (1887-1978), general music editor of The Hymnal 1940. He named the hymn tune in honor of his close friendship with the Reverend Francis Bland Tucker, then rector of St. John’s Church, Georgetown Parish, Washington, DC. This tune is arrhythmic (does not contain the same number of beats per measure), which allows it to follow the text very closely and in great simplicity.

At CHC, we do not often sing the same text twice in the same liturgy, but Sunday, we will, using the hymn Georgetown and the anthem setting by Michael McCabe (b. 1941), who had a 20-year military career and was the longtime parish musician of Christ the King Catholic Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Listen for the “crunchy harmonies” that accompany the text phrases about the apostle Peter’s crucifixion. The piece ends ever so softly, describing “the marvelous peace of God.”

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 12:46 PM
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