In these crazy times, a little unity can go a long way.

Portland-based composer Hank Beebe felt a wave of inspiration wash over him this past summer when he learned of the unification of Williston-West United Church of Christ and Immanuel Baptist Church. The two churches came together to form Williston-Immanuel United Church.

“These times are so divisive and there is so much acrimony going on between organizations and governments, I was just very taken that these people had gotten it together and formed this new church,” said Beebe, 85, who enjoyed a long career as a writer of shows for Broadway and Off-Broadway.

“Because of financial difficulties at each church, they put aside their differences and came together to form one church. That impressed me. I was very moved by their actions.”

So moved, he wrote a song.

It’s actually an anthem, which is another Beebe specialty. By his estimation, he has published some 400 church anthems over the years.

Church choirs often sing an anthem during the collection in a service. It’s usually relatively short, just three or four minutes, but long enough that ushers can pass the plate.

Under the direction of choir director Kathleen Scott, the Williston-Immanuel choir will sing Beebe’s anthem twice today — at the 10:30 a.m. service and then again at 3 p.m. during the installation ceremony for the Rev. Deborah Davis-Johnson.

Beebe titled his piece, “That We May Be One.”

“It’s based on the Book of John,” he said. “In that, Jesus is praying to his father for unity in his disciples. His statement is ‘that they all be one.’ What I did was take the ‘they’ out and put ‘we’ in, so it’s ‘that we may be one.’ It is essentially a prayer for unity in the emerged church, but also a prayer for unity for the church at large.”

Beebe wrote his anthem for the usual voicings of church choirs — soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Each voice sings a harmony part, except when they all get to the word “one.” When they get to “one,” they all sing the same note.

Scott loves the anthem. She called it infectious, and said she has found herself “at odd times during the day” singing the song. She most appreciates Beebe’s ability to take biblical text and match it to appropriate music.

It’s not easy to do, and often is not done well. Beebe is a master, Scott said.

“It requires a special kind of gift to fit them together so the music illuminates the text. Hank has that gift,” she said. “His music is informed by his faith.”

Although now retired in Portland with his wife, Nancy, Beebe’s career goes back a long way. His show “Tuscaloosa” ran for 452 performances in New York ,and won the Outer Critics Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. On Broadway, he was a composer for a 1976 revival of “Hellzapoppin’ ” starring Jerry Lewis and Lynn Redgrave.

He’s also written many musicals with biblical themes for his local church, St. Luke’s in Portland.

Beebe and his wife plan to attend the 10:30 a.m. service today. He wouldn’t miss the debut of his song for anything.

“I haven’t heard it yet,” he said. “I wrote it and played it on my computer with computer-generated voices and instruments. But that never sounds like what it is.

“I’ve been writing now for over 60 years, and every time I write something, it’s a new thing. It’s a brand new experience with different people and different dynamics. I look forward to it tremendously.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes