Ascension Lutheran Church – Citrus Heights, CA – Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA

Hymn of the Week for November 6, 2022 – I Love to Tell the Story of Jesus Here On Earth

Arabella Katherine “Kate” Hankey was a banker’s daughter in London in the mid to late 1800’s.  A devout evangelical Anglican, Miss Hankey was active in Bible societies, promoting the abolition of slavery, teaching Bible classes to shop girls, visiting the sick, and improving the lives of the English working class.  In 1866, Hankey found herself recovering after an extended illness.  During her recovery, she wrote a poem of 100 verses in two parts titled “The Story Wanted” and “The Story Told”.  The text of the hymn “I Love to Tell the Story” (ELW 661) was drawn from the second part of this poem.  Tune writer William G. Fischer set this hymn text to music, titling the tune HANKEY, and published it in a group of Sunday school songs in 1869.

New to the congregation song scene, Presbyterian pastor Chris Shelton wrote a new set of words to this very familiar tune.  He says,

I have always loved “I Love to Tell the Story.” It figures into my Baptist upbringing in such a deep way that it is one of a handful of hymns that almost always brings tears to my eyes. That said, whenever I’ve tried to program the original into worship, I’m reminded that Katherine Hankey’s text does not, in fact, tell the story at all. (Indeed, her original poem, The Old, Old Story, in Two Parts, does tell the story—in 50 stanzas, no less—but the narrative stanzas did not become a part of the hymn.) The hymn text casts it as a tale of “unseen things above,” that “satisfies… longings,” and is “wonderfully sweet.” I thought it might be worthwhile to bring the text back down to earth, and let the story take center stage.

Ascension will be singing Pastor Shelton‘s words as our gathering hymn on Sunday, November 6, 2022 – All Saints Sunday.