Swedenborgian praise: the Te Dominum

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been poking around Swedenborgian worship styles and I keep running to to references to a chanted text, the Te Dominum.

This isn’t the Te Deum — that well-known Christian canticle was so widespread that even the Universalists and Unitarians were known to sing it — rather, this was something only known to Swedenborgians.And it was also unknown to me, until last night when I found it in a hymnal of the middling-conservative General Church of the New Jerusalem, now more commonly known as the New Church.

I’m including it below, pointed for chanting. Here’s a PDF of the two pages, drawn from that hymnal.

We praise Thee O Lord, we acknówledge | Thee to | be our | God;
We magnify Thy holy náme and | worship | at Thy | footstool.

The heavens declare Thy glóry, the | earth is | full of · Thy | riches;
The Church doth wórship and ac-| knowledge | Thee a-| lone.

The Father eternal, the Word incárnate, the | Holy | Spirit, the | Comforter;
In essence and person óne Je-| hovah | Jesus | Lord.

To Thee the angels cry aloud, the héavens and | all the | powers there-| in;
To Thee cherubim and seraphím lift | up the | voice and | sing,

Holy, Holy, Hóly, | Lord · God Al-|mighty;
Heaven and éarth are | full · of Thy | glo-| ry.

Thou didst bów the | heavens · and come | down;
Thou didst clóthe Thy | self with | our | nature.

In Thy love and in Thy pity Thou hást re-| deemed | us;
And for our salvátion | Thou art | God with | us.

Thou didst endure all the bitternéss of | suffering · and temp-| tation.
Even to the passion of the cróss | and the | pangs of | death.

Thou didst burst asunder áll the | bonds of | death,
And rise in Divíne | majes-| ty and | glory.

Thou didst ascend on hígh leading cap-| tivi ty | captive;
The everlasting dóors were | open | to re-| ceive Thee.

High above all the héavens Thou | hast as-| cended,
Clóth-ed with | light and | girded · with | love.

Thou árt the | King of | glory;
Thóu | art Je-| hovah · of | Hosts.

Day by day will we exalt Thée O | Lord our | God,
And worship at Thy footstóol, for | Thou a-| lone art | holy.

Amen.

Now, it’s clear it knows the Te Deum. But further research is necessary to understand its provenance and use — and when it fell into decline and where it might still be used.

6 Replies to “Swedenborgian praise: the Te Dominum”

  1. How liturgical is the New Church? I’ve never attended one of their services. I was somewhat familiar with the Boston congregation back when I lived in Massachusetts years ago, and had the impression that it used a liturgy that had its roots in Swedish Lutheranism. I don’t have that impression about the three churches in Maine.

    What are the basic differences between the New Church and the Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, group that has the big Gothic cathedral (and, I assume, liturgical worship)? I had summer parishioners in Massachusetts who were members of that body and who seemed pretty much to be mainstream, modestly liberal Christians — which is the way the Boston group presents itself. I’m not sure what sets them apart.

  2. They’re distinct with respect to the esoteric teaching of Emanuel Swedenborg as respect “the inner meaning” of Scripture and the future life. They have two main branches — the more conservative Bryn Athyn “New Church” branch, which values Swedenborg’s writings as a third testament, and the more liberal “Convention”. The Boston church was once with the Convention (nasty legal business there) as is the D.C. church I sometimes attend. Both are small denominations — scant thousands of members — but the New Church is larger. (A third branch, The Lord’s New Church, is stronger overseas, and there’s murmurings of a new branch developing.)

    I gather that liturgically the streams of Swedenborgianism have been going low-church for generations. But I did get an email from a Convention Swedenborgian saying she’s heard the Te Dominum sung within the last 10 years.

  3. I recall that several years ago there was a nasty hoot developing in the Boston church over the proposed disposition of the building which, given its location (kitty-corner to the State House) would have netted the parish a gargantuan amount of money. Despite the potential windfall, there was some very vocal opposition to the sale. I don’t know how, or whether, that was resolved. I haven’t been in that neighborhood lately to see whether the church is still there.

    I didn’t know that the congregation had left the denomination, either.

  4. Scott – Do you think that the Te Domimum would sing well? This is important, in the same theme as well sung metrical paraphrase Psalms.

    Doug – The General Convention branch is liberal Christian, and somewhat mainline. They allow female clergy, as well as ordination of gay/lesbian persons. The conservative and sectarian Bryn Athyn group has bishops, and an all male priesthood. They are also somewhat anti-gay, and encourage families to send their children to church run private schools. The third group (the Lords New Church) broke off the Bryn Athyn body, is very small in America, and larger in Africa (especially Lesotho).

    New Church liturgy was historically a combination of Lutheran and Anglican practices. However, the churches in Canada and Kansas had many converts who were Methodists and German speaking Mennonites, and tended to be more low church from the get-go. In recent years the liturgical norms have been more informed by UCC practices.

    The Boston church (Church on the Hill) was subject to a lawsuit when the church left the denomination (General Convention). At present the congregation is not allowed to sell the property, but does collect a hefty rental income from the apartment building over the chapel. They have been spending a great deal of that income on charity to low income, urban families. The court divided a disputed trust fund between the Church on the Hill, and the General Convention.

  5. Derek, since this is a chant, I think the quality of the setting (and the chanters) would be key. But like you, I’m keen to use a metrical versions with small congregations. Haven’t found that, but there are metrical versions of the Te Deum out there. I’ll make these the subject of another post.

    On the other hand, the smallest branch’s full name is “The Lord’s New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma” — which I love.

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