It only took about 90 minutes, Tom Lough said, for him to turn Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s “Prayer for Peace” into a hymn.
Lough, a retired high school and college educator, saw the prayer in the newsletter of his church, Round Rock First UMC, located north of Austin in the Central Texas Conference, where Bishop Saenz started serving in addition to the Great Plains on Jan. 1.
“I just clicked on it and started reading it, and something came over me,” said Lough, who turns 80 in July. “I wouldn’t say it started speaking to me, but it sort of did.”
Already having written a hymn for United States veterans, Lough – a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army – started writing lyrics based on the bishop’s prayer.
“By the time it was over I had four verses on one side of the paper and two verses on the other side of the paper,” Lough said.
Lough consulted the Metrical Index at the back of the United Methodist Hymnal to find a tune that would go with the 10-syllable lines he had written. He found six or seven possibilities, and ended up on “Morecambe,” an 1870 tune by Frederick C. Atkinson that is also used for the hymn “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart.”
When he was finished with “A Prayer for Our Times,” Lough sent it to the Rev. Dr. Pat McCain, executive pastor at Round Rock, and Michael Rosensteel, director of music ministry. McCain in turn sent it to senior pastor Rev. Dr. Will Cotton, who emailed it to Bishop Saenz.
While the Round Rock church will debut the hymn March 13, it was sung March 6 by congregations at Topeka Countryside UMC, where Bishop Saenz delivered the sermon in three services.
Bishop Saenz said he was impressed with Lough’s work.
“I was deeply honored that he took the prayer and arranged it for a hymn,” said Bishop Saenz, who received several compliments from Countryside members following services. “I’m grateful to Tom Lough for his inspiration and providing a way for people to use the prayer.”
It is the latest on the list of a variety of accomplishments for Lough, a Pentathlete for the United States in the 1968 Olympics.
“I wish I could describe the feeling it is to hear something that one has helped to write being sung in worship, and know it is contributing to the worship experience of others,” he said. “It’s just an amazing feeling.”
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