Anglicans and the Arts

Frances Ridley Havergal – the Hymn that Began as a Prayer

We know her best known hymn, as one of the most loved in our Anglican hymnals.  Its composer was Anglican hymnist, Frances Ridley Havergal ( 1836-1879).  She lived a life of unfeigned saintliness.  One biographer called her, “a bright but short-lived candle in English hymnody.”  Her brief life was sold out to God.  Well educated, …

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Augustus Toplady – author of “Rock of Ages”

No one knows why a young English curate, Augustus Toplady (1740-1778) wrote his famous hymn, “Rock of Ages.”  Tradition says he was on horseback in the rock- hewn Somerset landscape when he got caught in a thunderstorm. He found a cleft in the rocks for shelter.  During the long storm he thought of Christ, his …

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Isaac Watts – The Little Giant of Church Music

The jockey-sized teen winced. Why were worshippers forced to sing  such trite and dreary paraphrases of  the Psalms?  Anything had to be better than Ye monsters  of the bubbling deep, your Master’s praises spout; Up from the sands ye coddlings peep and wag your tails about. The lyrics were dreadful, and so walking home from …

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The Rev’d Neale – The Axe-Wielding Vicar

John Mason Neale (1818-1866) influenced the worship environments most of us enjoy each Christmas.  He was a hymn writer, whose works included “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Good King Wenceslas.” To his contemporaries he was better known as a leading member of the  Cambridge University-based , Ecclesiological Society,  a group of visionary Anglicans committed …

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The Man Behind “Amazing Grace”

The yellow light of the lamp washed across the page. The Reverend John Newton was scratching out his latest hymn. The Parish of Olney, Buckinghamshire had grown used to his novel habit of composing hymns to illustrate the text and message of his sermons.  He latest hymn would change musical history. The earlier life was …

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The Making of Handel’s “Messiah”

George Frederic Handel was born in Halle, Germany in 1685.  The musician settled in London in 1712 as a music teacher to the royals.  He had a round face, high forehead, heavy eyebrows, and a tremendous white wig that fell across his shoulders. He was witty, charitable, a linguist, a great lover of food and …

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The Origin of our Liturgical Colours

Pope Innocent (1160 -1216 ) could be dogmatic and iron-fisted.  He decreed the doctrine of Transubstantiation, enforced clerical celibacy, launched a crusade, excommunicated errant kings, and outlawed clergy from performing surgery.  The 12th century was a period of artistic transformation.  The “Gothic style” of architecture had been birthed in France, and was quickly becoming the …

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