303. Come, Let Us Eat

Text Information
First Line: Come, let us eat, for now the feast is spread
Title: Come, Let Us Eat
Author (st. 1-3): Billema Kwillia, b. c. 1925
Translator (st. 1-3): Margaret D. Miller (1969, alt.)
Author (st. 4): Gilbert E. Doan, b. 1930 (alt.)
Meter: 10 10 10 10
Language: English
Publication Date: 1982
Topic: Lord's Supper
Copyright: Text, st. 1-3, and tune © Lutheran World Federation; St. 4 and harmonization © 1972, Contemporary Worship 4. Used by permission of Augsburg Publishing House.
Tune Information
Name: A VA DE
Composer: Billema Kwillia, b. c. 1925
Meter: 10 10 10 10
Key: F Major
Source: Contemporary Worship 4, 1972, (harm.)
Copyright: Text, st. 1-3 and tune © Lutheran World Federation; St. 4 and harmonization © 1972 Contemporary Worship 4. Used by permission of Augsburg Publishing House.

Text Information:

Billema Kwillia (b. Liberia, c. 1925) composed both the text and the tune of this hymn during the 1960s when he was a literacy teacher and evangelist. The text's rather cryptic phrases highlight central themes of the Lord's Supper. Stanzas 1 and 2 issue the invitation "Come. . . ," stanza 3 draws us into an appropriate meditative mood in the Lord's presence, and stanza 4 dismisses us with the reminder to "spread abroad God's mighty Word."

A speaker of the Loma language, Kwillia learned to read the language as an adult through a church literacy program. In the early 1960s he became a literacy teacher himself. After being baptized as a Christian, he served as a preacher and evangelist.

The text and tune of this hymn were originally transcribed from a recorded church service. Margaret D. Miller (b. Clifton Springs, NY, 1927) translated stanzas 1 through 3 from the Loma language into English in 1969, and that translation was first published in 1970 in the Lutheran World Federation hymnal Laudamus (4th ed.). Miller was educated at the Lankenau School for Girls in Philadelphia while her widowed mother served as a missionary in Liberia. After graduation from college, Miller followed her mother's example and became a missionary in Liberia, serving there as a literacy worker and translator of the Wozi language as well as an editor of the bilingual Loma newspaper, Weekly. She has done graduate work in linguistics and anthropology at the Hartford Seminary Foundation, Hartford, Connecticut.

Gilbert E. Doan (b. Bethlehem, PA, 1930) added stanza 4 prior to the hymn's publication in the Lutheran hymnal Contemporary Worship-4 (1972). A prominent Lutheran clergyman, Doan served as campus pastor in Philadelphia from 1955 to 1961. He was northeastern director for the National Lutheran Campus Ministry from 1961 to 1984 and more recently was pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, Philadelphia. A graduate of Harvard College (B.A. in geology) and Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia (D .B.), he also received a master's degree in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania. He has written Renewal in the Pulpit (1966), edited The Preaching of Frederick W Robertson (1964), and was chair of the hymn texts committee of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (1967-1978).

Liturgical Use:
Lord's Supper-sing stanzas 1 through 3 during distribution of the bread and wine, and sing stanza 4 as a dismissal after the sacrament.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

The tune title A VA DE is the incipit of Kwillia's original text in the Loma language. “Come, Let Us Eat” is an excellent choice for congregations that celebrate communion with various groups of people coming forward to stand or sit around the Lord's Table (in the Old Dutch Reformed manner). The hymn can be sung in a call-and-response manner, with a soloist singing the first line and the congregation responding with the repetition. The congregation can sing easily without books while coming forward. Sing without pauses between stanzas.

Leland B. Sateren (PHH 294) arranged the music for optional singing as a two-part round and harmonized it for Contemporary Worship-4. The round is at two measures, and its second part should be sung by a smaller group in the manner of an echo. The tune itself has two phrases, each of which repeats once. Sing this lively music in unison or as two-part round, and accompany it with guitars, flutes, and especially percussion instruments such as hand drums, woodblocks, or tambourines.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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