Kaan, Frederik Herman (Fred)


b Haarlem, Netherlands 1929.d Cumbria 2009. After a childhood under Nazi occupation when his parents sheltered Jewish people at great personal risk, he came to England to study in 1952. He ministered at Plymouth’s ‘Pilgrim Church’ where (they told him) ‘anything is possible!’ Yes, even the compiling in 1968 of Pilgrim Praise, including his own early hymn texts, a radically new departure matched by similar but different ventures elsewhere. This small blue collection comprised 50 sometimes stark texts, mostly his own but with 5 based on foreign-language originals, with a brief Foreword by Bruce Kenrick. FK was Sec of the International Congregational Council in Geneva from 1968, then an executive of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. He returned to the UK to serve 7 years as Provincial Moderator, a post he then relinquished for a further local pastorate. He has 6 collections of hymns and translations in print, including The Hymn Texts of Fred Kaan (1985), Planting Trees and Sowing Seeds (1989), and The Only Earth We Know (1999); his work has itself been translated into over 15 languages, and often tackles in verse issues of international justice, reconciliation and peace. 23 texts and versions, and 3 tunes, feature in Rejoice and Sing (1991), and 10 hymns in the N American The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990); from the A&M stable, Common Praise accepted 2 and Sing Praise, 3 more. One of his first was a characteristic text echoing a Dutch carol, Come and be surprised, all nations, while now one of his best-known is Put peace into each other’s hands (1987). A frequent lecturer in UK and USA, he has notably addressed and challenged conferences on ‘Peacemaking through Worship’. In 1979 Erik Routley called him ‘the archetypal “new-European��? hymn writer’ but also ‘unclassifiable’; others name him as ‘poet of the Christian anti-war movement’. He says of himself that he enjoys ‘the risk and excitement of ad hoc discipleship’; naturally, therefore, jazz is another of his loves. He retired to Glenridding, nr Patterdale, Cumbria in 1999, and in 2007 finally left the committee of the Hymn Society, having been elected an Hon Vice-President. See also Gillian Warson’s tribute, Healing the Nations: Fred Kaan, the man and his hymns (2006). No.922.

Hymns and songs by Kaan, Frederik Herman (Fred)

Number Hymn Name
922 God! As with silent hearts we bring to mind