Lead us, heavenly father, lead us

Lead us, heavenly father, lead us
O'er the world's tempestuous sea;
Guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
For we have no help but thee;
Yet possessing every blessing
If our God our father be.

This hymn by James Edmeston (1791-1867) is one of over 2000 which he wrote, but is the only one still in popular use today. Edmeston was an eminent London architect and surveyor who, after an early upbringing in the Congregational tradition, joined the Church of England. He was latterly churchwarden of St Barnabas, Homerton. Amongst Edmeston's pupils was Sir George Gilbert Scott, who was responsible for many government and ecclesiastical buildings throughout Britain. Edmeston was an ardent lover of children and a strong supporter of the London Orphan Asylum. It was for these children that he wrote many of his hymns (he is said to have written one every week), many of which were published in Sacred Lyrics, Infant Breathings, and other works. Edmeston's first published collection of verses was The Cottage Minstrel, written in response to an advertisement offering 20 for fifty simple hymns suitable for cottage meetings. This hymn was published in Sacred Lyrics, Set Two (1821) where it is headed "Hymn written for the Children of the London Orphanage Asylum".

Tune - Mannheim

Mannheim is from the Vierstimmiges Choralbuch herausgegeben vonDr F Filitz, Berlin (1847). Filitz (1804-1876) originally set this tune to words by Frelinghausen: Auf, auf, weil der Tag erschienen. The tune is much altered from the seven line original; the six line version in use today uses three of the original lines and one completely new line in the following order: 1,3,2, (new), 1, 3. In this modern form it was first published in Binney's Congregational Church Music (1853) where the arrangement is attributed to the American musician Lowell Mason. In 1875 Mannheim was first associated with the Edmeston hymn, and since then has become celebrated throughout the world.

Nigel Day

St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997