This day we have witnessed (At the death of Nelson Mandela) (website only)

Authors & translators:
Pratt, Andrew

In December 2021, Andrew Pratt adapted the following text to mark the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The new version can be found on Andrew's blog: 

This day we have witnessed a man for all nations,
a man who was human, held fast what is right,
for this he would live with profound resignation,
he shone in the world, don't extinguish that light.

And we who are human stand now in remembrance,
frail shadows of all he has shown we can be.
Stand fast in this moment and cherish the values
for which he once suffered that we might be free.

The man we remember has died, will be buried,
yet while we seek justice his theme will not fall
His spirit is living, will not be extinguished,
the love he embodied is always for all.

Words: Andrew Pratt (born 1948) © 5 December 2013 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England,
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.


Suggested tune: “The road and the miles to Dundee” (StF 604)

Mandela in his office 1952 - the first black legal practice in Johannesburg, South Africa

More information

How do we remember a man like Nelson Mandela in our worship? He is a man who has been widely loved and is regarded as the father of modern South Africa. He has been the face of opposition (perhaps also with Archbishop Desmond Tutu) to the apartheid regime in that country. But in the past, his politics and methods have also divided international opinion.

Can we sing of a man like Mandela within the context of Christian worship? For minister, theologian and hymn writer Andrew Pratt, the answer is a firm yes. Andrew's words tread a fine line between expressing faith and expressing values inspired by Mandela’s journey and commitment. However, for the Christian singer, this text is clearly more than a eulogy. The implications are very clear – that Mandela was a man who lived a Christ-echoing life: there are parallels with what we would wish to say about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

No one would wish to say that Nelson Mandela has been a modern-day Jesus. But his life has been prophetic and, if we seek those whose lives have expressed what Jesus might wish to do and say in the modern world, we could do worse than remember a man whose words and actions insisted that we are all made in the image of God. It’s a belief that makes demands on us as Christians, as it did on Mandela himself.

About Nelson Mandela

Biographical and other information about Nelson Mandela is available from The Nelson Mandela Foundation.

For a sometimes disturbing visual timeline history of apartheid in South Africa, go to the Huffington Post.

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