July 2015

Abide with Me. Watching the FA. Cup Final, I was struck by the enthusiasm of that huge crowd as they joined the ‘fans choir’ to sing ‘Abide With Me.’ It is the favourite hymn of Queen Elizabeth, it has been sung on sinking ships, at major sporting events and at the passing of loved ones. Hymns are a powerful way to draw near to God, and I began to wonder what the story was behind this great hymn and why it continues to be so popular.

The hymn was written by Henry Francis Lyte 1793-1847. He with his wife Ann, was a faithful pastor in Brixham in Devon. He worked tirelessly ministering to his parish, caring for his family and writing poems and hymns, including ‘Praise my Soul the King of Heaven ‘. In 1844 he was diagnosed with TB and his health began to decline. On September 4th 1847 he gave his farewell message in his church, went for a walk along the beach, then retired to his study and penned ‘Abide. With Me.’ A few days later he died and his last words were Joy and Peace. The music was composed by William Monk, Choir Master at York Minster, and was played at the memorial service. As He often does, God took a sad ending of a life and made something of lasting worth.

The opening words of the hymn were taken from the story of the Emmaus road at the end of Luke’s gospel. That first Sunday morning, following Jesus crucifixion, two disciples were walking home. They had heard reports from the women of an empty tomb, but could not believe it. The risen Lord Jesus joined them on the road, but because of their grief and despair they did not recognise Him. He spoke to them on the way, and comforted them, and when they arrived home, they asked Him simply, ‘stay with us’, or as it is put in the old version, ‘abide with us’. It was only then that they recognised Him.

Maybe you are going through a tough time right now. Try giving Jesus the invitation to walk the road with you, and stay with you. Perhaps you could use the words of this great hymn as your prayer.

Abide with me fast falls the evening tide,
The darkness, Lord with me abide,
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour,
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine,
O abide with me.

I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless,
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness,
Where  is death’s sting?
Where grave thy victory?
I triumph still if Thou abide with me.

Judith Barnes
Pastoral Assistant