1931-

1931, Invercargill, New Zealand.

portrait

A former editor with the New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, Murray’s work has appeared in more than 140 collections worldwide, and been translated into several languages (Chinese, Swedish, German, Spanish, French, Norwegian, Estonian, Portuguese, Korean, and Braille print). Her Master’s degree (Hons.) from the University of Otago was in Latin and French. She has been a teacher of languages, a researcher, and producer of radio hymn programs, as well as a church organist and pianist.

Murray grew up in the Methodist tradition and married into the Presbyterian one, though the ecumenical movement has been a dominant influence in her work. The themes of her hymns range from peace, justice, eco-theology and human rights to the voice of women, the Church year and the sacraments. She has written meditations and more than 20 Christmas carols, often with Southern Hemisphere landscapes or references. Her words have been used for choral anthems and appear as poems in a number of anthologies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Many contemporary composers have set her texts, notably from New Zealand: Colin Gibson, Jillian Bray, Douglas Mews, Jenny McLeod, Barry Brinson, Ian Render, and David Dell . Among those from North America: Carlton Young, Jane Marshall, Jim Strathdee, Hal Hopson, Austin Lovelace, Dan Damon, Ron Klusmeier, Joy Patterson, Amanda Husberg, Rusty Edwards, Lori True, Richard Proulx, as well as I-to Loh (Taiwan), Lim Swee Hong (Singapore), Per Harling (Sweden), and Bernadette Farrell (United Kingdom) .

Murray has also worked with Dr. I-To Loh, musical ethnologist from Taiwan, in paraphrasing Asian hymns into English, and contributed both texts and paraphrases to Sound the Bamboo (CCA Hymnal, 1990, 2000) and the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan Hymnal (2009). Her five major collections have been published by Hope Publishing Company: In Every Corner Sing (1992), Every Day in Your Spirit (1996), Faith Makes the Song (2003), Touch the Earth Lightly (2008), and A Place at the Table (2013). She was also a major contributor to the New Zealand ecumenical hymnals Alleluia, Aotearoa, Carol Our Christmas, Faith Forever Singing and Hope Is Our Song. She is represented in the Australian Together in Song, and has 23 items in the Church of Scotland Hymnary 4. In 2004, she collaborated with Jane Marshall and Carlton Young to produce the collection Sing for Peace.

Murray was the Erik Routley Fellow 1996 (Presbyterian Church of the USA). In 2001, she was awarded the Queen’s Birthday honor of Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to the community through hymn writing, the first citizen to be so honored. In 2005, she received the Mahara Gallery Trust (New Zealand) Award for Literature. One of her texts was chosen as a theme song for the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly in Brazil, 2006, and also in that year the Royal School of Church Music awarded her the status of Honorary Fellow, FRSCM, for her work as a hymn writer, recognized internationally.

In 2009, she wrote a theme hymn for the Christian Conference of Asia, and in that year was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Literature from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and became a Fellow of the Hymn Society in the USA and Canada in 2009 (FHS).

She is married to the Very Rev. John Stewart Murray, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa/New Zealand, and founding Chairperson of the New Zealand Hymnbook Trust. They have three sons and six grandchildren, and live on the coast near Wellington, New Zealand.

  1. Because You Live, O Christ