I sing because I’ve found the voice

* This hymn is a response to Paul’s testimony in Romans 7,15-25a.

I have set it to the African-American melody AMAZING GRACE, composed in the early nineteenth century or earlier. Singers might venture to lift their voices without accompaniment, and to sing out, sing clearly and freely. When there is more than one singer, people can improvise their own harmonies. (To do this, no one has to be able to read music, or to try to sing in a ‘good’ voice – everyone has a good voice!) When the singing is airborne, instrumentalists can join in, if they are available. The important principle is: let not instruments provide a cover for singers to hide behind. Let each person make the opening couplet their own!


I sing because I’ve found the voice.midi


I remember first hearing Romans 7.15-25a when I was a choirboy. The words seemed to find out a secret suspicion that I was morally sick, and depicted me as such. For a long time after, that was how I thought of myself.

In this passage Paul writes in the first person about his struggle not to be a victim of the past in which he was a slave to sin. In the wider context of this passage Paul, being baptized in Christ, sees himself as a new creation; but baptism has not made him glib: he vividly remembers his experience of being in bondage, and he writes passionately about it.

The whole context has been summarised by George Hunsinger as follows: Paul situates the baptized community, and the baptized person within the community, in an apocalyptic context. The baptised exist in the turning from the old aeon to the new as determined by Christ’s death and resurrection. They exist between past and future, between the old aeon determined by sin (now shattered by Christ) and the new determined by resurrection from the dead (now inaugurated). The power of the resurrection really is present to them – as that which is essentially future. Because of its presence, sin does not dominate them.[1]

Martin Luther is reputed to have written that ‘It is not sin that must leave human beings, but human beings that must leave sin.’ It’s a reminder that baptism doesn’t produce new creatures simply by magic: for God’s grace to be effective, courage, resolution, and perseverance are required.

I wrote this hymn believing that ‘The age of grace is here and now, is with us evermore…’ Everyone is summoned to ‘lift every voice as each knows how to hymn faith’s farthest shore’ (Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11.1. It means setting no limits to what may be undertaken in Christ’s name.)

The image of ‘finding the voice’ is taken from the experience of learning to be oneself as one is, rather than trying to cultivate images of a different self. A student, who later became a distinguished actor, impressed everyone except his teacher by acting the part of a powerfully angry man. “You are only acting”, she said: “you are not being real.” At that he became yet more angrier and angrier, and everyone was seriously frightened. But the teacher insisted he was still holding back. Then he let go, picked up a sofa and hurled it across the room. His teacher had no need to say it: he knew for himself he’d found his voice at last.[2]





[1] In The Lectionary Commentary. 2001. Editor: Roger E.Van Harn. London: Continuum. Vol.2 pp 61-66

[2] Simon Callow: Being an Actor (1986)