Monday, March 16, 2020

When hands can no more reach and hold

When hands can no more reach and hold, 
            Or arms no more embrace,
When lives must now be held apart
            By yawning empty space; 
Great God, now give your children hope
            In place of sad despair,
And hold our hearts in your good peace,
            Our breaking souls repair.

God, teach us in this lonely time
            To hold in yearning prayer
Those lives and souls who touch our own,
            And give them to your care.
Let not our gnawing fear take hold
            And make us feel alone,
But teach us, Lord, to hold this truth
            Until this scourge is gone:

Those souls we’ve been loved by and love
            Are still with us this day;
That friendship touch is not denied,
            Nor is it gone away.
Help us reach out, though not with hands
            Or arms or holy kiss,
To all those friends and loved ones dear
            Whose presence now we miss.

Our prayers for health and wholeness hear,
            And give our souls release
To hope against that day when we
            Can reunite in peace.
Sustain our souls, set free our minds,
            Renew our battered love
On earth, e’en now in solitude,
            As in your realms above.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2020.
MUSIC: Suggested tune RESIGNATION, USA folk melody,
            Lewis’s Beauties of Harmony, 1828 (CMD)


A hymn of the moment. As the grim reality of Covid-19 settled in and the necessity of isolation and "social distancing" became all the clearer, I was reminded (oddly enough, but not really?) of the Carolyn Winfrey Gillette hymn title "When hands reach out and fingers trace." The obvious question became "but what happens when we can't do that?" This hymn is a feeble attempt at an answer, or less an answer than a response? 


  1. This is a song of hope which I appreciate since we are all struggling with the many huge changes that have so quickly occurred.

    1. Thank you. I am glad you found that note in it.

  2. Is it possible to get permission to use this in a live streamed service this Sunday?

    1. Mark, consider this reply your permission. All I ask is that the hymn be credited to me in some way (Charles S. Freeman), and if any changes are made that those be acknowledged as not by me. Also, I don't know if there is any sort of "bulletin" for such a service, but if there is it would be helpful to me to see a copy of it somehow, or otherwise some kind of verification of its use. I am glad you find the hymn useful and meaningful at this time.

    2. There will not be a bulletin for the service but we will gladly include verbal credit. Thank you!

  3. I too would love to use it with permission and of course, to credit you fully. Absolutely wonderful lyrics.

  4. I do appreciate all of these reactions to this hymn and requests to use it. I'm no Isaac Watts or Charles Wesley, but it's gratifying to learn that something about it has struck home.
    Any of the hymns posted on this blog, at this time, are available for use as long as (a) I get credit by name, Charles S. Freeman or Charles Spence Freeman, and (b) any alterations made to the hymn text are acknowledged as being not by me. (If you choose to sing this or any hymn to a different tune that's fine and I'm not particularly worried about it.) In normal circumstances I'd ask for a copy or photo of a bulletin or order of service showing the hymn's use, but I do get that right now those probably don't exist (he said, busily trying to pull together something for Sunday), so I understand if that's not possible.
    Again, I thank you for the interest and appreciation and hope that the hymn is meaningful in whatever use it may find.

  5. Thank you for writing such timely and meaningful words!

  6. Thank you for these words and this message. I would like to sing this on Sunday, March 29. We are a small UMC who are having “Drive In Church” and no printed bulletin will be available to reduce the possibility of viral transmission, but spoken credit and thanks would certainly be included. May I have permission for that?

    1. Yes, certainly. I do understand that printed orders of service are not common at the moment.