Glory to Thee, O God

During this time whilst we can’t sing together in worship we are aiming to post a different hymn each week.  For some Sundays it will be the obvious hymn in Common Praise for a particular Sunday and a brief commentary – partly with reference to The Penguin Book of Hymns edited by Ian Bradley – will be published with our hymn choice for the week.  The words of the hymn will be provided alongside a recording of the hymn, courtesy of Lucy Colbourne at home whilst Lancaster University is in lockdown.  This will have been recorded by Billy Colbourne (Assistant Organist) and includes use of his Hauptwerk organ also at home, with the sounds of Salisbury Cathedral’s organ.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

Glory to Thee, O God

Glory to thee, O God, 
for all thy saints in light,
who nobly strove and conquered in the well-fought fight.
Their praises sing, 
who life outpoured
by fire and sword for Christ their King.

Thanks be to thee, O Lord,
for saints thy Spirit stirred
in humble paths to live thy life and speak thy word.
Unnumbered they
whose candles shine
to lead our footsteps after thine.

Lord God of truth and love,
'thy kingdom come', we pray;
give us thy grace to know thy truth and walk thy way;
that here on earth
thy will be done, 
till saints in earth and heav'n are one.

H C A Gaunt

Tune: Harewood
Music: S S Wesley

CCLI - 1073121





Hymn Commentary 

A hymn writer with a very local connection for this week’s Hymn for the Week as Howard Charles Adie Gaunt (b.1902 Edgbaston; d.1983, Winchester) was the Headmaster of Malvern College from 1937 to 1953.  The stay in Malvern wasn’t permanent though as, during the Second World War, the school was relocated to Blenheim Palace and then Harrow School; the UK government requisitioned the school buildings.  Before he became a teacher, Gaunt briefly played cricket for Warwickshire and Cambridge University.

St James’ Day is 25 July and not surprisingly we have a hymn from the Saints section of the Holy Trinity hymnal Common Praise.  Glory to Thee, O God is not a particularly well-known hymn but it only takes two line to make the connection with the theme.  Research hasn’t revealed when the hymn was written and it may have been sometime after 1954 when the writer was ordained deacon and subsequently priest. However, as you read the words you can imagine the darkness of World War Two as Howard Gaunt kept his school going and his vision of saints who had gone before.  The words ‘who nobly strove and conquered in the well-fought fight’ (verse one) contrast with ‘whose candles shine to lead our footsteps after thine’ (verse two) and culminate with words from The Lord’s Prayer in verse three: ‘Thy Kingdom come’ and ‘Thy will be done’.

The tune published with Glory to Thee, O God is another Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-76) hymn tune (you can find out more about him by referring to O Thou who camest from above which has previously been a Hymn for the Week and Lead me, Lord which has been an anthem for the week).  Named after a village very close to Leeds, Harewood is usually sung to the more well-known hymn Christ is the Corner Stone.  But we have kept with what Common Praise published as the alternative tune (Love Unknown) suggested in two other hymn books we wish to keep for when we sing My Song is Love Unknown.   All this talk of other hymns leads me on to say that there are two other hymns with titles very similar to this week’s: Glory to Thee, My Lord and Glory to Thee My God this night; only the latter could be considered anywhere near well-known though.

But let us get back to Glory to Thee, O God and reflect on the finality of the last line: ‘till saints in earth and heav’n are one’.  For if we consider that we might all be going the same way, perhaps there is a connection to this week’s Anthem for the Week, God be in my head; its last line reads ‘God be at mine end, and at my departing’.  

Charles Pavey - Organist & Choirmaster

Anthem for the Week

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