Sunday, March 20, 2011

May Whittle Moody

Composer May Whittle Moody (March 20, 1870 - August 20, 1963) was a second-generation hymnist, the daughter of gospel songwriter Daniel Webster Whittle. Daniel Whittle was a friend of the evangelist Dwight Moody, and May attended the Northfield Seminary for Young Women, one of two schools founded by Moody in Northfield, Massachusetts. She went on to study music at Oberlin College and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Returning to this country, she joined her father and Moody in their evangelistic work as a solo singer and she also began writing tunes for some of her father's texts. In 1894 she married Dwight Moody's son William, and they returned to Northfield, where William headed the schools founded by his father there.

This collaboration between father and daughter was one of their last. Daniel Whittle died the following spring, in 1901, and for the last year of his life he lived with May and her family.

They tell me the story of Jesus is old,
And they ask that we preach something new;
They say the example of Christ's loving care
For the wise of this world will not do.

It can never grow old, it can never grow old,
Though a million times over the story is told;
While there is injustice and pain in the world,
The story of Jesus can never grow old.

Yet the story is old, as the sunlight is old,
Though it’s new every morn all the same;
As it floods all the world with its gladness and light,
Kindling faraway stars by its flame.

For what can we tell to the weary of heart,
If we preach not salvation from sin?
And how can we comfort the souls that depart,
If we tell not how Christ rose again?

So with sorrow we turn from the wise of this world,
To the wanderers far from the fold;
With hearts for the message they’ll join in our song,
That the story can never grow old.

Daniel Whittle, 1900; alt.
Tune: ETERNAL STORY (Irregular with refrain)
May Whittle Moody, 1900

The Cyber Hymnal page for this song has a quote from 1 Corinthians 3:19 "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." If you've ever heard a discussion of using modern marketing techniques to bring people to church, this song might speak more directly to you.

In later years May also worked with Charles Alexander on the third edition of the Northfield Hymnal and after his death, produced the fourth revised edition herself in 1927.


John Magnifico said...

Thanks for your article. I appreciated your application of the truth contained in the lyrics, to be more specific, the part which mentions modern marketing techniques for churches.

C.W.S. said...

Thanks, John - happy that you found the hymn useful.

John Magnifico said...

Btw, I came here because I was doing a name search on this lady... she had written a song titled A New Year's Message. I couldn't find it anywhere... but I have a photocopy of the music which I got from my grandparents' church's bulletin, they had recommended it and I eventually found it, but it was titled by its first clause [I asked the New Year for some motto sweet]. I was wondering if there was a preferred method whereby I could submit the song to CyberHymnal (Under the proper name), or some way I could make an alias for the song on (I have MuseScore on Xubuntu...) You don't have to make this visible... I don't really care either way, but I just want some advice on how to make that song easily available to many under "the proper title." Here's another link to a different page on I asked the New Year for some motto sweet (Text focused page.)

C.W.S. said...

You could try contacting the CyberHymnal webmaster (there's an e-mail link on May Whittle Moody's page), but in my experience he generally doesn't "take requests" for new material.

For both the CyberHymnal and, it appears that they prefer to use the first line rather than any other given title, probably for consistency so that every text follows the same format.