*** This hymn echoes a Scriptural call for real, not token, fasting.Shout-aloud-Do-not-hold-back-1
This hymn offers an unfolding of the prophetic call to repentance in Isaiah 58.1-12. The prophecy is concerned with social justice and with building communities of mutual respect and sharing. It begins abruptly with a summons to the prophet (or to the prophetic community) to Shout aloud…like a trumpet. God’s people are to know that their rebellion and their sins are clearly recognised: in faithfully maintaining their practice of worship and fasting at the same time as serving their own interest and oppressing all their workers, they reveal themselves as hypocrites. The message is delivered with such directness that one can imagine its first hearers feeling disturbed and offended before they considered changing their ways.
The hymn urges today’s congregations to be personally involved in the issues that the prophecy identifies. It is written to ensure that each person has the chance to consider whether they are being addressed in this reading by God, either because they themselves are hypocrites, or because they are being prompted to act publicly for the righting of injustices and the ending of oppressions.
So the hymn consists of four stanzas that do no more than compress the text of Isaiah 58; the simple idea is to reinforce what has been read. There follows a closing prayer which offers a means for today’s worshippers to respond to the message that the reading hammers home.
This is a hymn that addresses a specific text, which itself is aimed at specific abuses of the covenant that binds people and God together. Although the hymn text contains plenty of references that apply to people today, it may be thought that on a whole the hymn is not readily suitable for singing except on occasions when this Scripture is read. That is not to say that this hymn is of merely secondary importance; only that it may sound quixotic to those who have not heard the reading to which it responds.
In any case verses 6 and 7 of the Scripture text make uncomfortable reading for parts of the church in the west. For, after many centuries in which it was a regular and integral part of Christian devotion, fasting has in recent decades fallen out of use. A secondary aim of this hymn is to remind worshippers that the call to fast is basic to what God requires.
The music of the hymn is constructed to be a vehicle first of all for the opening words of the Scripture. The melodic and rhythmic pattern of the first two lines clearly imitates the sound of a bugle rallying people to attention; its staccato and accented style especially suits the words of the opening stanza. But, when smoother singing would be more suitable, as in verses two and five, the declamatory style of music helps to keep the seriousness of the issues to the fore.
This music was composed on a day in 2001 when the Southampton Campaign Against Nuclear Ships – SCANS – was to hold a meeting.