I Sing a Song of the Saints of God

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"I Sing a Song of the Saints of God"
Music: John H. Hopkins
Words: Lesbia Scott
Published 1929, 1940
Language English
Melody name Grand Isle

"I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" is a Christian hymn written in Britain by Lesbia Scott and first published in 1929. The hymn is little-known in Britain, not featuring in the Anglican New English Hymnal, but has become very popular in the United States - particularly in the Episcopal Church, where it has been incorporated into the Hymnal since the 1940s. The hymn was used as the signature tune of the BBC Scotland radio programme Fireside Sunday School in the 1960s running through until December 1970 when the programme ended. It was sung by the Scottish Junior Singers who participated in the programme.

The hymn is especially recommended for corporate worship on All Saints Day.

The story behind the hymn[edit]

Lesbia Scott (1898-1986) composed a number of children's hymns which she sang to her own children as a young mother in her twenties. She wrote both the words and the tunes and in 1929 published them in a collection, 'Everyday Hymns For Little Children',[1] which she also illustrated.

Each hymn was devised for a different occasion, and one of them, Saints' Days, found its way to the United States and was set to a new tune ('Grand Isle') composed especially for it by retired Episcopal priest John H. Hopkins, Jr. "He was the son of the Rev. Theodore Austin Hopkins; grandson of the first bishop of Vermont, also named John Henry Hopkins; and nephew of John Henry Hopkins, Jr., author and composer of "We Three Kings of Orient Are"... 'Grand Isle' was written in 1940... and named for the community on the island of the same name in Lake Champlain in Vermont where Hopkins lived in his retirement."

In this setting it was incorporated into the Episcopal Hymnal 1940, under the title of its first line. It has been retained in the subsequent Hymnal 1982 (Hymn #293) after its proposed removal for lack of theological profundity prompted a letter-writing campaign, and also features in the 1974 Book of Worship for United States Forces (Hymn #444) and the United Methodist 1989 Hymnal (Hymn #712) (words altered), the 1990 Presbyterian Hymnal, and the NACCC's 2006 Hymns for a Pilgrim People.

Popularity[edit]

The hymn remains a popular favourite with American churchgoers who have grown up with it. In a 2003 survey of 'desert island' hymns run by the website Anglicans Online,[2] the hymn was voted 14th.

Lyrics[edit]

I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
For the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
And one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
And his love made them strong;
And they followed the right for Jesus' sake
The whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
And one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
And there's not any reason, no, not the least,
Why I shouldn't be one too.

They lived not only in ages past,
There are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.
[3]

Alternate lyrics used in some hymnals for third verse.

They lived not only in ages past;
There are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
In church, by the sea, in the house next door;
They are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
And I mean to be one too.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Everyday Hymns For Little Children, The Society of SS Peter & Paul Ltd., London, 1929
  2. ^ The Top 20 Desert Island Hymns of Anglicans Online Readers
  3. ^ http://subtuum.blogspot.com/2009/07/saints-and-martyrs-as-anchors.html
  4. ^ http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh712.sht