Missions

Rediscovering blind hymn writer Fanny J. Crosby

Nov 2008    

IF YOU were to say your favourite hymns include titles like “Blessed Assurance”, “Rescue the Perishing”, “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross”, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour”, “To God Be the Glory” and “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me”, you will surely know something about their author – Fanny J. Crosby.

Most Christians may know Fanny as the great blind hymn writer who wrote more than 8,000 hymns and poems. She lost her eyesight when she was a mere infant, but thereafter, never gave up but had a positive attitude throughout her life.

Her best known works are the familiar gospel hymns used extensively in the Moody and Sankey evangelistic meetings in Britain and United States from the 1870s. Yet those hymns are but a miniscule part of her vast poetic treasury and represent a fraction of the themes she explored in her writings.

Apart from the familiar gospel songs, Fanny wrote many more verses addressing the Christian year, the Holy Communion, discipleship, mission and serving the poor. There was an unmistakable Methodist influence in her Christian hymns. This was because of her “Aldersgate-like” experience of God when attending a series of revival meetings at the Thirteenth Street Methodist Church of New York City in 1850. She later joined Cornell Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Her most prolific years as a hymn writer came with her association with the Methodists from 1863 till her death in 1915. Sadly, many of those inspired verses have since been kept away in archives.

Last year, the Rev Dr Kang Ho Soon discussed with the Rev Dr S. T. Kimbrough Jr the idea of doing a hymn service using the life and songs of Fanny. The Rev Dr Kimbrough researched and found 16 of Fanny’s hymns that reflected her wider theological and liturgical interest, as well as her evangelical faith. These new songs include hymns for Advent, Christmas, Easter, Discipleship, Mission and the Holy Communion.

Contemporary composers from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean region were commissioned to set music to the verses. Our own Singaporean Methodist, Dr Lim Swee Hong, set two pieces to music. The result of these efforts is a music CD with an accompanying music book for congregational singing and choral settings, and contains both the familiar as well as the new songs of Fanny.

The new songs premiered at a Hymn Festival on Aug 31 at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church. There was also a choral workshop for music directors, choirs and praise teams on Aug 28 at the Methodist School of Music and a workshop shedding new light on the hymns of Fanny the following evening at the church.

The Festival produced a CD and song book which are available from the church (tel: 6293-7997) at a special package price of $30 with all proceeds going towards the KKMC Project 49 building fund. It is hoped that the CD and music book will help a new generation of Christians express their worship to God.

Lyndon Gan is a Lay Ministry Staff of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

GC ups Methodist investment in missions

THE Special Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore led by our Bishop Dr Robert Solomon has not only approved the Methodist Missions Society’s (MMS) request to employ two more key personnel but also agreed to provide the funds.

1. MMS Director of Education in Missions

Our plan is to establish Methodist English Language centres and schools in Cambodia, China, Laos, Nepal, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam as part of our mission in these countries. We believe this strategy will open doors that will enable us to preach the Gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Although based in Singapore, the person should also be willing to spend time in the field to oversee the setting up of these English Language centres. Persons with competency in English teaching and curriculum development and a passion for missions should apply.

2. MMS Accountant

The MMS, as a missions agency, seeks to be effective in its stewardship of giving for missions. This requires a financial model that will empower the workers in the field without creating an unhealthy dependence on foreign funds. We also need financial systems that are user-friendly and which provide relevant information to assist various stakeholders in their decision-making. This year our budget has risen to $3.7 million.

Although based in Singapore, the person should also be willing to spend part of the time overseas helping our field staff with their financial systems and auditing their accounts. Persons with relevant experience, accounting qualifications and a passion for missions should apply.

Pass the word around and ask interested persons to send in their resumes to: The MMS Executive Director, 70 Barker Road, #06-01, Methodist Centre, Singapore 309936 or email: mms@methodist.org.sg

The Rev Dr Norman Wong is the Executive Director of the Methodist Missions Society.

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