Saturday, December 13, 2008

William Walsham How

William Walsham How (December 13, 1823 - August 10, 1897) was born in Shrewsbury. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1847, serving in several different locations before becoming well known for his work among the poor of the East End when he was Suffragan Bishop of London. He was called the "omnibus bishop" because he rode the buses with the people rather than in a private coach. In 1889 he was named Bishop of the newly-created diocese of Wakefield after earlier turning down two other bishoprics.

How published several volumes of his own sermons as well as religious verse. He wrote 54 hymns, probably the most well known of which is For all the saints. He was chair of the committee that produced Church Hymns in 1871, where I found today's much less known hymn for baptism.
O'er the shoreless waste of waters
In the world's primeval night,
Moved the quickening Spirit, waking
All things into life and light.
God, thus in thy new creation
Light in thine own light we see,
By the water and the Spirit
Born again to life in thee.

When from thine avenging deluge
Thou thy chosen ones would save
Lo! the ark of thine appointing
Rode in safety on the wave.
So, thus in the world's broad ocean,
Tossed with tempests fierce and stark,
All thy people find a refuge,
And thy church is now their ark.

Through the Red Sea's cloven waters
Israel's children gained the shore,
Free to seek the land of promise,
Egypt's bond-slaves now no more.
So upon their journey starting,
Thou thy children, God, shall free;
Lo! they pass from every bondage
Into glorious liberty!

As when Christ, baptized at Jordan,
Heard with John, the prophet wild,
May thy people hear thy blessing:
"This is my beloved Child."
Guard and guide them by thy Spirit,
Lead them on from strength to strength,
Till, all toils and conflicts ended.
They are safe with thee at length.

William Walsham How, 1854; adapt. C.W.S.
Henry T. Smart, 1868


Leland Bryant Ross said...

I really like that hymn. Really, really like it. And I think Rex Gloriæ is a good tune for it, though St. Hilary (which Church Hymns gives) works well, too. And I think the hymn works as well for adult baptism as for pædo-, which is always an important consideration for us Baptists when assessing baptismal hymns.

Also, I think your fourth verse is a significant improvement on How's; if I were including this hymn in a hymnal, I'd choose your version over his. Good job!

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

Thanks. I liked it a lot too, which is why I wanted to do a little renovation and present it to a new audience. Not that I should know better than a bishop, but How's fourth verse had no "water" connection, which I wanted to retain (if only in a small way) from the first three.

And I also wanted it to evoke a corporate baptism, not just a single person/child. In the Episcopal Church, everyone in the congregation renews his/her baptismal covenant when the rite is performed.

Dorothy said...

I like this one too! And I really like that idea of the Episcopal church that each individual is renewing his or her baptismal covenant when a baptism is performed. It seems to me that that reinforces the unity of the church in Christ...always a very good thing.