The Church's one foundation

The Church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the word:
from heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy Bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

This hymn was written in 1866 by Samuel John Stone (1839-1900) to support the opposition shown by Bishop Robert Gray of Cape Town to the views of Bishop John Colenso of Natal. Stone was educated at Oxford, ordained in 1862 and had a variety of posts ending as Rector of All Hallows-on-the-Wall, London. It originally appeared in Stone's Lyra Fidelium; Twelve Hymns of the Twelve Articles of the Apostle's Creed, of which it was the ninth article entitled "The Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of Saints. 'He is the Head of the Body, the Church'". In 1863 Bishop Colenso was deposed by his metropolitan Bishop Gray because of his rejection of the doctrine of eternal punishment and his questioning of the authorship of the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua. Bishop Gray excommunicated Bishop Colenso, although Colenso appealed to the Privy Council and remained in his see.

There were seven verses in the first version; the five verse edition first appeared in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1868), and an expanded ten verse edition was written in 1885 for processional use in Salisbury Cathedral. There are several biblical references in the hymn, principally 1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ". Another reference is to Ephesians 5:25 "...just as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her" in verse 1, lines 7-8.

Tune - Aurelia

Aurelia first appeared in A Selection of Psalms and Hymns arranged for the Public Services of the Church of England, edited by Rev Charles Kemple and S S Wesley in 1864. Originally composed for "Jerusalem the Golden", it derives its name from the Latin for gold (aurum). It was written by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-76), the son of the musician Samuel Wesley, grandson of Charles Wesley the hymn writer, and great-nephew of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. He was successively organist of Hereford and Exeter Cathedrals, Leeds Parish Church, Winchester and Gloucester Cathedrals. He was the most distinguished church musician of his generation.

In the key of E flat major, the fourth alto note in the third line, F, and the third tenor note in the fourth line, B, are original. They were altered in the Appendix (1868) to the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern to E flat and F respectively, and this change has persisted in many books.

Nigel Day

Compete text of Lyra Fidelium - from Luke Martin's site.
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 27th December 1999