Hymn of the Week: June 6
by Canon Precentor Organist and Choirmaster Pat Partridge
Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis
Sunday, June 6: Hymn 381
Thy strong word did cleave the darkness
Although this powerful twentieth-century text is new to the Hymnal 1982, it is made extremely accessible by being set to the much-loved Welsh tune Ton-y-botel. The recurring imagery of light weaves together God's activity in creation (Gen. 1:1-5), Christ's redemptive activity (John 1:1-18), and out challenge to live as "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14).
Thomas John Williams composed this tune in 1896, according to the story printed in the last years of his life. It was used by him as the central part of an anthem "Light in the valley." It became widely known in Wales as a result of being one of the tunes taken up in the Revival associated with Evan Roberts. The tune became known in England at about the same time. The name (The Bottle Tune) is the result of a sensation-seeking story circulated in 1902 after the appearance of the tune in the Baptist Book of Praise. It was said that the tune had been discovered washed up in a bottle on the North Wales coast.