Carolyn Gillette Talks to Joshua Rothman About Writing Hymns in Tragic Times

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ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14: People visit a memorial for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, June 14, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The shooting at Pulse

The hymn writer and Presbyterian minister Carolyn Gillette was taught in seminary to write sermons with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. She does the same when she composes her hymns, which have been sung by congregations around the world. Some of them are uplifting songs of praise to God, but Gillette specializes in hymns that help the faithful address their feelings about the tragedies they see in the news every day—from hurricanes and the refugee crisis to the Orlando shooting. The New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman visited Gillette’s church, in Delaware, to talk about balancing hope and sadness.