18th Century. 
 
Off the coast of Ireland.
 
A stormy night at sea.
 
Waves chopping, rising several feet high.
 
And an ancient sailboat being tossed around in what is a devastating storm.
 
As the storm rages on with no hope of abating, one sailor gets down on his knees and prays.
 
Prays with all his heart and begs forgiveness for his sins. 
 
Prays fervently and promises to mend his ways. Prays for redemption.
 
The seas calm down and over days the ship sails back safely into the harbor and a repentant sailor comes home – a changed man.
 

That man was John Newton, a slave trader, a man of many misdeeds and (while not immediately) he slowly turned from an atheist to a believer (I once  was lost, but now I am found) and in his most pious moments he composed a hymn – one that has over centuries been a hymn sung in troubled moments – a requiem that graces churches during some of the most poignant funeral masses.

Here are the words of the autobiographical hymn. Most people know the song but not the story.

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, 
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, 
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come, 
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures; 
He will my shield and portion be, 
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, 
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil, 
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun, 
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun
.
 
There have been so many versions that it’s difficult to choose one so here are three of the ones I’ve heard and liked. I am sure you have your own favourite.
 
Accompanied by bagpipers, this group of Irish singers called Celtic Woman brings an ethereal charm to the hymn.
 
And here’s an a capella version by Hayley Westerna.  Appreciate the  simplicity of the melody and the depth of the words coming right through.
 
And set against the backdrop of the ruins in Rome, Il Divogive their version of the hymn. The interlude with the bagpipes and the variations in their voice add a unique quality to this rendition. Have a listen.


And if the words keep ringing in your head… well… it’s amazing grace, grace that will lead us home. 

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