Born in Dublin in 1818, Cecil Frances began writing in her school journal as a child. By the 1840s she was well known as a hymn writer and her compositions were included in the Church of Ireland hymnal. During her life Cecil Frances was involved in many charitable works including the dedication of the profits from her hymns to a Diocesan Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. The words to this hymn are often sung at funerals and more traditional services:
I remember singing these lyrics in church while I was growing up, never once thinking about who wrote the words. Never understanding that someone had to be inspired, talented and motivated to bring joy to people’s hearts through verse. The words were written more than a hundred and fifty years before my time by a woman in Ireland, a woman who excelled at her craft and blew open doors for female song writers for centuries to come.
I now imagine voices raised across the globe in song joyfully lifting these cherished words towards heaven reminding us that ALL THINGS were made for a purpose, including us. All of us have gifts, talents, skills and ideas that may seem extraordinary during our time and yet they are meant to pave the way for people for generations to come. It takes courage, it takes guts, it takes a willingness to bring to life that ‘thing’ that sits in our heart for the world. Not only the world we know, more importantly for the world to come. I give thanks for women like Cecil Frances Alexander who wore her bonnet, served in her traditional family role, and changed the course of church music by sharing this song with the world for centuries to come.