Remembering Shirley Erena Murray, revision

This is a re-done post. One of the hymns ascribed to her (of how many!!!!???) that I used was not hers and so — she has written so many — I re-wrote it. This is the new and usable version.

My friend Rosalie Sugrue wrote to me, “I have been to Shirley Erena Murray’s funeral at Kapiti Uniting Parish,” and I was stopped quiet. I knew about her stroke and about her husband’s death in 2017 and yet, if I was still singing her songs, surely, she was still writing her incredibly inclusive words. 


Then your voice remembers her

If you know …
Because you live, O Christ,
the spirit bird of hope is freed for flying,
our cages of despair
no longer keep us closed
and life-denying …

then someone taught you her song.

If you teach
in workshop, choir or campground —
to touch the earth lightly
and nourish the life
of the world in our care,

then you are a part of the greening,
the water that blesses,
the air that is sweet.

If you stand at a table
with tears running down your cheeks
because you were excluded
until people learned
that for everyone born —
everyone —
there’s a place at the table,

then you hear God echoing —
“justice, justice and joy.”

If your Advent pageant
includes not “Away in the Manger”
but “Away and in Danger”
the Carol of the Refugee Children

then at least one small child
is reaching out a hand
to welcome others
to the shores of their land.

If you start the singing
(after turning off the microphone)
“love changes life
from water to wine”
for a couple in their seventies,
trying it again,

silly rehearsals and grumbly guests
fade away
and you know what a wedding is.

If you recognize tunes from deepest needs
and symphonies and drums,
you are singing “For the Music of Creation,”
if you invite Christmas into “the here and the now,”
you are singing “No Obvious Angels,”
if you learn the word “Aotearoa”
it is probably paired with “Alleluia,”
or turns you “upside-down.”

if you — some Lenten morning —
ask someone to
“Come and find the quiet center
in the crowded life we lead,”
or on Pentecost, challenge the
… community of Christ
to “look past the church’s door …”

Then your voice remembers her —
the Star-woman,
who taught us
(when we were just trying to
have a sweet Bethlehem-moment)

to sing about street children,
beat children,
used children, hurt children,
spared children, spoiled children
grown children, lost children,

and woke up our hearts.

I used this fraction of her songs: Come and Find the Quiet Center, A Place at the Table, Star Child, Community of Christ, Touch the Earth Lightly, For the Music of Creation, No Obvious Angels, Come to a Wedding, Away and in Danger, Carol our Christmas, Because You Live, O Christ.

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4 Responses to Remembering Shirley Erena Murray, revision

  1. LL DuBreuil says:

    Truly her words and spirit will live forever!

  2. Elaine Bolitho says:

    Dear Maren,

    Thank you for honouring our wonderful NZ hymn writer Shirley Erena Murray and I’m sorry you have had trouble with the names attributed to hymns in your book. There was a wonderful celebration of her life at St Andrew’s on The Terrace last Friday, and if you would like to watch it, here are the links: or

    Love, blessings and appreciation for your Gifts in Open Hands – unfortunately I seem to have lost the facebook contact which brought your posts up regularly and which I shared through the Council of WellingtonChurches fb page – much appreciated by our followers.

    Elaine E Bolitho

    56 Box Hill, Wellington 6035

    Home Phone (04) 479-5352

    • Maren says:

      Thank you, Elaine, for sending that on — I’ve watched a little but have the most awful cold and am taking it back to bed, so more later. I am sorry you have lost that FB contact. I am not sure how to fix it from my end, but will ask around.

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