Lead Kindly Light – A Hymn for our Times.

As a young cleric in the 1830’s John Henry Newman wrote the words to the hymn, Lead Kindly Light, after he became sick trying to help others while in Italy during a deadly epidemic. Newman was quarantined for several weeks and became weak in body and spirit even questioning his faith. At last he boarded a boat that would get him on his way home to England, but the winds died stranding the sailing ship for a week in the dangerous currents and shoals of the Strait of Bonifacio. It was there in the deep waters of fear and doubt longing for the faces of loved ones that his faith went deeper still and he wrote the hymn that has often been turned to for comfort in times much like our own.

There are legends of the hymn being sung aboard the Titanic on the fateful night of its sinking and by English miners stranded underground after an explosion in the Durham coalfields in 1909. Corrie ten Boom remembered her sister singing Lead Kindly Light as she was led by SS guards into the concentration camp at Ravensbrook. It was also the favourite hymn of Mahatma Gandhi and the title given to one of his biographies.

Newman’s beloved hymn, Lead Kindly Light, has inspired numerous tunes. I have attached links to several arrangements, some old and familiar and some new. Take your time. Listen and reflect. Which arrangement/s speak to you and why? I would love to hear back from you at jpholmes@yorkminsterpark.com

  1. Lead Kindly Light tune ‘Alberta’ by William H. Harris https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fNjEgbsNmI
  2. Lead Kindly Light tune by Dan Forrest
  3. Lead Kindly Light tune ‘Lux in Tenebris’ by Arthur Sullivan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV1Afm3KzAk
  4. Lead Kindly Light tune ‘Lux Benigna’ by John B. Dykes
  5. Lead Kindly Light tune ‘Sandon’ by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4Dwd3hd-j4
  6. Lead Kindly Light tune by Audrey Assad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piUDbCtgymw