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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

Sacred Song Story: Here I Am, Lord

Our processional hymn for this week—Here I Am, Lord—was written in 1981 by Dan Schutte, a composer of contemporary liturgical music and worship songs. At the time, Schutte was a 31-year-old Jesuit studying theology in Berkeley, California. One Wednesday a friend asked him to compose a song for a diaconate ordination mass scheduled for that Saturday. The friend further asked that the song include imagery of the Word of God, the light of Christ, and the bread and wine. Schutte agreed to help, but he only had a few days’ notice and was sick with the flu. He felt weak and feverish and did not know where to begin, so he sat with his guitar and some staff paper and prayed, “God, if I’m going to do this for my friend, you’re going to have to help me.”

During an episode of BBC’s Songs of Praise, Schutte told what happened after he prayed. “Somehow I was led to those stories of the call of the prophets—Jeremiah, Samuel, and Isaiah in the Old Testament. And as I read those stories, it clicked for me.” He based his lyrics on Isaiah 6:8, 1 Samuel 3, and Jeremiah 1:4-8, explaining, “In all those stories, all of those people God was calling to be prophets have expressed in one way or another their humanness or their self-doubt.” In spite of their self-doubt, they were still willing to answer God’s call and follow His will.

In the first draft of the song, the chorus confidently proclaimed, “Here I am, Lord; here I stand, Lord.” Schutte said he thought some more about how the prophets responded, and after talking it over with his fellow Jesuit songwriters, he changed the lyrics of the chorus to “Here I am, Lord, is it I, Lord?” He felt this better expressed the humility of the prophets as well as others who are called by God.

Schutte never expected this song to become so popular in many churches across denominations. He reflected, “I believe that Here I Am, Lord is popular because of the relationship that it sets up with a very personal God. Some of the hymns that we write are about God. Here I Am, Lord is actually formed and fashioned and structured as a conversation. It’s a dialogue between God and us.”

The song lyrics can be found in this Sunday’s bulletin for the 10 a.m. service. We hope you will join us in person or online for one of our weekend worship services.

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