Friday, January 14, 2022

Song about Compassion Wins Duke Chapel Hymn Competition

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Update:  The Duke Chapel Choir debuted "Open Wide the Doors" in the Sunday morning worship service on January 23, 2022. Watch the hymn being sung.

Duke University Chapel has selected the hymn “Open Wide the Doors” by Brad Croushorn as the winner of its 2021 Hymn Competition.

Croushorn’s hymn text was chosen from among sixty entries from three countries.

“This new hymn reminds us that mercy, grace, and forgiveness are the portals—the doors and windows—through which Jesus is made known to the world, while exhorting those of us who follow Christ to broaden our definition of ‘neighbor,’” said the Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke Chapel.

The hymn competition was coordinated by Dr. Zebulon M. Highben, director of Chapel Music at Duke Chapel and associate professor of the practice of church music at Duke Divinity School.

“‘Open Wide the Doors’ will be a marvelous addition to the church’s hymnody,” Highben said. “The text beautifully and succinctly addresses our contest’s theme of compassion, as it calls us to open the doors of our hearts.”

The hymn will debut as part of the Chapel’s Sunday morning worship service on January 23 at 11:00 a.m. The Duke Chapel Choir and Chapel Organist Christopher Jacobson will lead the congregation in singing it to the English tune RUSTINGTON. The service, part of the Chapel’s observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, is open to the public to attend in person and will also be livestreamed.

A composer and vocalist based in the Raleigh-Durham area, Croushorn is an associate editor of School Choral Publications at Alfred Music Publishing and minister of music and liturgy at All Saints’ United Methodist Church in Morrisville, North Carolina. He also participates in the local music scene through the NC Songwriters Co-op and Carolina Contemporary Composers. As a performer, he has sung in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and at Avery Fisher Hall in New York and multiple years at the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

“As I see it, practicing compassion – for others and also for ourselves – is what creates an opening (‘doors’ and ‘windows’) to enter into an authentic connection with each other,” Croushorn said. “Practicing compassion illuminates our commonalities and brings us to the gentle understanding that indeed, God is in our midst. To me, it is the framework of living in the way of love. And this idea was running in my mind continually while writing ‘Open Wide the Doors.’”

As the winner of the competition, Croushorn will receive $1,500 and his hymn will be published by MorningStar Music/ECS Publishing Group in a collection of new and recent hymns from Duke Chapel.

In addition to Croushorn’s winning entry, Duke Chapel selected five finalists in the competition, each of whom will receive a $300 award: Kate Bluett, Angier Brock, Rosalind Brown, Delores Dufner, and William Pasch.

Both Powery and Highben served as adjudicators for the competition along with: James Abbington, associate professor of church music and worship at Candler School of Theology; Susan Briehl, a hymnwriter and pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Mark Lawson, president of ECS Publishing Group and MorningStar Music; and Jerusha Neal, assistant professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School. The committee made their selections based only on the submitted hymn texts, without information about the identity of their authors.