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Hymn of the Week: “O God, Our Help In Ages Past”

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The 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

O God, our Help in ages past,
our Hope for years to come,
our Shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal Home.

“O God, Our Help In Ages Past” is an 18th-century hymn written by English minister and prolific hymnist Isaac Watts. Isaac was highly educated and spent his time writing sermons, treatises, poems and hymns when he was not otherwise occupied as pastor of the Independent Church in London. Watts wrote thousands of hymns, many of which were meant to be sung after a particular sermon.

Watts’ poetry, which is a paraphrase of Psalm 90, was set to a tune called “ST. ANNE,” composed by William Croft and first published in 1709. A talented keyboardist, he was elected as the house organist of Westminster Abbey, where he accompanied services for nearly 20 years. (ST. ANNE is named for the small church in London’s Soho where Croft once served as an organist.) A great many of his compositions remain in manuscript form.

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