Shirley Erena Murray

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Shirley Erena Murray (born 31 March 1931) is a New Zealand hymn lyrics writer. Her hymns have been translated into numerous languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn collections.

Born a Methodist[1] in Invercargill, she earned a Master of Arts degree with honours in Classics and French from the University of Otago.[2] She later worked as a teacher and researcher.[3]

After marrying Presbyterian minister John Murray in 1954,[3] she eventually moved to Wellington where John was minister for the St Andrew's on the Terrace from 1975 to 1993. Her hymn writing started in the 1970s and often used the congregation of St Andrew's as a testing place for the hymns.[1] Many different composers have put music to her hymn texts.[1]

Her hymns have been translated into several European and Asian languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn books around the world.[2] In addition to New Zealand, they are particularly used in North America.[1]

Among her most known hymns are "Hymn for Anzac Day", "Where Mountains Rise to Open Skies", "Our life has its Seasons", "Star Child" and "Upside Down Christmas".[1][2]

Professor and hymn writer Colin Gibson, who has set music to some of her songs,[1] described Murray's hymns in 2009 as "distinguished by their inclusive language and their innovative use of Māori, their bold appropriation of secular terms and their original poetic imagery drawn from nature and domestic life, but equally by the directness with which they confront contemporary issues."[2]

In 2001, she became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for "services as a hymn writer".[4] In 2006, she became a fellow of the Royal School of Church Music. She received an honorary doctor of literature degree from the University of Otago in 2009. The same year, she was named a fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.[2]

Murray lives with her husband at Raumati Beach near Wellington. The couple has three children and several grandchildren.[5]


  • In Every Corner Sing (1992)[5]
  • Every Day in Your Spirit (1996)
  • Faith Makes the Song (2003)
  • Touch the Earth Lightly


  1. ^ a b c d e f Amanda Wells (December 2009) Hymn writer stresses the power of words Spanz Magazine. Retrieved from on 9 December 2013
  2. ^ a b c d e University of Otago to honour hymn writer University of Otago. 1 December 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2013
  3. ^ a b Shirley Erena Murray The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Retrieved 9 December 2013
  4. ^ The Queen's Birthday Honours List 2001 Retrieved 9 December 2013
  5. ^ a b Murray, Shirley Erena Hope Publishing. Retrieved 9 December 2013.