calm, Christ crucified, conquer, cross, death, defeat, dying, Easter, glory, Good Friday, guidance, Jesus, life, light, love, paradox, peace, presence, Redeemer, redemption, resurrection, serenity, servant, Sylvia Dunstan, Transfiguration, Trinity, victory
You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd,
You, Lord, are both prince and slave.
You, peacemaker and sword bringer,
Of the way you took and gave.
You the everlasting instant;
You, whom we both scorn and crave.
Clothed in light upon the mountain,
Stripped of might upon the cross,
Shining in eternal glory,
Beggared by a soldier’s toss,
You, the everlasting instant,
You, who are both gift and cost!
You, who walk each day beside us,
Sit in power at God’s side.
You, who preach a way that’s narrow,
Have a love that reaches wide.
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are our pilgrim guide.
Worthy is our earthly Jesus!
Worthy is our cosmic Christ!
Worthy your defeat and victory.
Worthy still your peace and strife.
You the everlasting instant
You, who are our death and life.
Sylvia Dunstan (1955-1993) was early encouraged by her family in her love of music and song, and she began studying with Sister St. Gregory in St. Joseph’s Convent near her home. She began writing songs in her teens, finding inspiration in the Catholic liturgical music of the early 1970s in the style of Ray Repp and the Medical Mission Sisters. One of the Mission Sisters, Sister Miriam Therese Winter, helped her learn how to write Scripture-based folk songs. Michael Hawn quotes Dunstan about these songs, “Most of these songs are now under a well-deserved and merciful curtain of oblivion,” and Dunstan moved on to concentrate on composing hymn texts rather than music.
Dunstan earned a bachelor degree from York University and received graduate degrees in theology and divinity from Emmanuel College, Toronto. She was ordained by the United Church of Canada in 1980, served as a prison chaplain for ten years, as editor of the Canadian worship resource journal, Gathering, and went on to serve as minister at the Malvern Emmanuel United Church in Scarborough, Ontario.
At the 1990 summer conference of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, she was invited to lead a session exploring her hymnody. The Hymn Society released a collection of thirty-seven of her hymns and three gospel songs titled In Search of Hope and Grace in 1990. A second collection of seventeen hymns, Where the Promise Shines, was published posthumously by GIA Publications in 1995.
In March 1993 Sylvia Dunstan was diagnosed with liver cancer, and she died four months later on July 25 at the young age of thirty-eight. Her reputation continues to grow as one of the leading hymn writers of the twentieth century, and her work appears increasingly in published hymnals and choral works.