Singing a parting hymn to close a worship service has been an important practice of the Christian Church since the time of our Lord’s meeting with the disciples just before His crucifixion: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out…”. This hymn, written for the closing of a music festival in England, is generally considered the finest of all closing hymns. John Ellerton, an Anglican priest, was a significant Victorian hymn writer and very influential in the preparation of hymnals. He wrote about 50 hymns and translated others, most of which are still in use today. This one is a prayer of thanksgiving for the expansion of the church around the world so that “the voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strains of praise away”.
Edward John Hopkins came from a musical family: his father played with Royal Opera House orchestra, two brothers were organists and his uncle was bandmaster of the Scots Guards. At the age of 16 he won a blind audition to become a church organist and later became music director at London’s Temple Church which held an historic organ built in 1683, where he remained over half a century. He was one of the founders of the College of Organists.