21st June 2023
Debra Akins writes about
The Song Story
of "In Christ Alone"
Songwriter Stuart Townend says "I think content is vitally
important to our corporate worship."
"Sometimes great melodies are let down by indifferent
or clichéd words.
It's the writer's job to dig deep into the meaning of Scripture
and express in poetic and memorable ways the truth
he or she finds there.
Knowing the truth about God and who we are in Him is central
to our lives as believers. Songs remain in the mind
in a way sermons do not, so songwriters have an important role
and a huge responsibility."
Known and respected today by musicians and worship leaders
throughout Britain and beyond, his (Stuart) involvement
in Christian music dates back over a long period.
"In Christ Alone," seems destined to take its place among other worship
classics both in the UK and in the United States.
Written in 2002, "In Christ Alone" was a collaborative effort between
Townend and fellow songwriter (and now good friend) Keith Getty.
The theme of the life, death, resurrection of Christ, and the
implications of that for us just began to tumble out, and when we got
together to fine tune it, we felt we had encapsulated what we wanted to say."
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm...
Townend and Getty both admit they are motivated by the idea of capturing
biblical truth in songs and hymns that will not only cause people to express
their worship in church, but will build them up in their Christian lives.
"I've been amazed by the response to this song," says Townend.
"We've had some incredible e-mails about how people have been helped by
the song through incredibly difficult circumstances."
One e-mail described how a U.S soldier serving in Iraq would pray through
each verse of the song every day, and how the promises of God's protection
and grace helped to sustain him through the enormous pressures and
dangers of life in a war zone.
"It seems like this song is timely," Townend says.
"We in the West have had our sense of safety and security brutally torn
apart by recent world events, and it's caused many to re-evaluate the
foundations of their life.
I feel that the song has helped to stir faith in many believers that God
really is our protector; that our lives are in His unshakable hands."
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled and striving cease
My Comforter, my All-in-All
Here in the love of Christ I stand...
Since its initial creation, several versions of "In Christ Alone" have been
recorded by artists around the world, and Townend admits to having a few
favourites. "I've heard some wonderful recordings of it.
"The Newsboys' version is really fresh and exciting, and the one done by
Alan Asbury is superb," Townend says.
"But the one that always moves me most is when we recorded it with a
congregation of 8,000 at the Stoneleigh Bible Week in England.
When we finish the third verse, about the resurrection of Christ, there's an
extraordinary burst of praise from the congregation that at the time was
overwhelming, and listening back still sends a shiver down my spine."
The uniqueness of Townend's writing lies partly in its lyrical content.
There is both a theological depth and poetic expression that some say is
rare in today's worship writing.
And not surprisingly, it's an emphasis that Townend and Getty both maintained
within the composition of this song in particular.
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny...
He continues, "The lyric [of this song] excites me because
it places our hope, our assurance, our eternal destiny in the right place -
on the solid foundation of Christ.
I know in my own life I need reminding continually not to live by my feelings
or my circumstances, but by the unchanging truth of the gospel."
"In Christ Alone" was the very first collaboration between Townend and Getty.
In fact, it was Townend's first collaboration with any other songwriter.
But it was an experience he found to be very fruitful and well worth the effort.
It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
In Christ Alone - The Stoneleigh Band
Debra Akins Contributing Writer