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“Amazing grace … how sweet the sound” – perhaps the most beloved and widely sung hymn in the world, over the years since itwas written, this lovely song has touched hte hearts of millions of hearts. It’s been sung in churches ofevery denomination, at special events, and in moments of crisis, when communities come together. It’s been recorded in scores of vocal and instrumental versions – ever resilient and ever inspiring.
What makes it so special and universally appealing? Is it the song’s sweet simplicity? Its heartfelt emotion? Its timeliness – always summoning up the present moment in which its words are voiced? Surely, it’s all of these and more. Yet, more amazing, perhaps, than the source of its enduring power is the story of its creation.
“Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton, a slave trader who had literally “sold his soul” in search of money, status, and pleasure. Out of the blue, one stormy night, grace touched his life. He changed completely, almost in an instant, and was moved to write, “I once was lost but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”
What a remarkable story! We’ve all had moments of inspiration and deep revelation – moments where we see the light. Sometimes these moments pass by in a flash and they are known only to ourselves or a handful of people.
But sometimes, those moments are shared and given new life through words. How wonderful that John Newton felt moved to share his moment of transformation with the rest of the world! What a tragedy, if that moment hadn’t been set down on paper – if it was lost in time.
Who knows how many hearts have been transformed through this simple song? How many people have let go of despair and found hope in its simple message? How many crises have been weathered and overcome through the power of a few verses brought to life by many voices singing together as one?
“Amazing Grace” reminds us that we all are wirters – we all have powerful, life-changing words deep inside us waiting to be brought to light and given shape and meaning.
“Amazing Grace” also reminds us that the simplest words are often the most powerful. No need to dress them up in fancy phrases – just let them sing their own song.
“Amazing Grace” also reminds us just how important stories are. Because the story of how this lovely hymn came to be written is every bit as marvelous as the song itself.
We are the singers who bring the light. We are the storytellers and scribes. Write on!