February 9, 2007
The world's 'most popular hymn'You know it, probably by heart. It’s Amazing Grace. And you probably also know the story behind the song, how it was written by an Englishman who had been a slave trader before he got religion. His name was John Newton, and he’s also credited with being the mentor of William Wilberforce, the British politician who is credited with masterminding the abolition of the slave trade 200 years ago.
In tribute to their efforts and in recognition of the 27 million people still enslaved around the world, the National Council of Churches has great plans for Amazing Grace Sunday, Feb. 18, that congregations still have time to participate in. Among those people are children. I met one a year ago when visiting an ELCA-supported project in Laos—a teen on his own who’d been tricked into “work” on a shrimp boat that turned out to be slavery. His only way out was to jump ship: Good thing he was a strong swimmer.
We Lutherans love that hymn as much as any group. It’s #779 in our new Evangelical Lutheran Worship. When we sing it next—and why not next Sunday—let’s think not only about it’s past but about what we can do to bring freedom to today’s unseen slaves.