Hymn of the Month :: February 2012
Hymn of the Month :: "When Peace Like a River"
“When Peace Like a River” (Lutheran Service Book #763) is the February hymn.
This is probably a familiar hymn to many of us. The background of this hymn is what makes the words even more meaningful. The website www.cyberhymnal.org often has interesting information about the hymns.
The words were written by Horatio Spafford (1828-1888), who lived in Chicago. He wrote it after two major traumatic events in his life. First, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed his business and ruined him financially. Shortly after, he and his family decided to travel to England, and while there, to attend meetings conducted by their fellow-Chicagoan and friend, Dwight L. Moody. His wife and daughters went on ahead, traveling by boat. This is when the second traumatic event happened - the ship was involved in a collision at sea, killing the four daughters, with only the wife surviving. When she finally arrived in England, she sent her husband a telegram with the message, “Saved alone”. Shortly thereafter, he left for England. He began to write the poem when he passed near the spot where his daughters had died. In the song, he relates to us the strength of God's peace in the most difficult times.
The music was written by Philip Bliss (1838-1876) from Pennsylvania, who also knew Dwight L. Moody. Not only was Bliss a singer of Gospel music, he was a prolific composer as well. For the hymn “When Peace, Like a River”, he gave it the tune name “S. S. Ville de Havre”-- the name of the ship on which the Spafford daughters were killed.
As we sing this hymn during the month of February, may we remember Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (New International Version).