- Singing the Faith: 110 (CD5 #12)
- Andrew Murphy
- “Bethany” by Henry Thomas Smart
- 87.87.D. (Trochaic)
Ideas for use
Henry Smart’s tune, “Bethany” (associated by many with Fred Pratt Green’s “God is here! As we his people”, StF 25), has a wide range, rising to a high, affirming climax in its penultimate line. It works best with the support of a number of strong singers and lends itself to a confident organ or keyboard accompaniment.
Given the symmetrical nature of the verses (each one divided into two parts, each part moving towards a joyful acknowledgement that “his love goes on”), it might be appropriate to divide the congregation into two for verses 2 to 4 – each group taking half a verse. This will be even more effective if the two groups can face each other to sing – in this way, the singers will both acknowledge the reality of each other’s lives and also confer the ultimate blessing upon one another: “God is here: his love goes on”.
Andrew writes that this hymn was written “to testify to the love of God, from which nothing ‘in all creation will be able to separate us’ (Romans 8:38-39). This is an idea echoed in the hymn’s recurring phrase (almost a mantra): “his love goes on”. A “big” hymn with five substantial verses, “In the wonder of creation” takes some effort to sing – and this is exactly as it should be for a text that looks at all of human experience, from beginning to end, and acknowledges that the business of living can be hard work at times.
“I have tried to reflect both the joys and difficulties, light and shadow, of the Christian life,” Andrew explains. The hymn reflects on our experience of God in nature, scripture and our relationship with Jesus Christ. Within this fundamentally affirming context, Andrew is nevertheless able to write with honesty about “the slog of working madness” (v.3) and “the dark days of depression” (v.4).
“The words came after a particularly difficult period for me,” Andrew writes, “through which I was reminded again and again that God’s love indeed endures. The hymn is not meant to be sung lightly or frivolously, nor with undue seriousness, but rather as people who remain convinced that, whatever befalls, God’s loving mercy is reaching out to them."
Andrew Murphy is a Methodist minister. He was born in Consett, County Durham, and this hymn was first sung by his home congregation of Consett Methodist Church at its Church Anniversary service on 29 November 2009.