Rev Rod Horsfield (pictured) is a great believer in the power of music and poetry to help people understand and express their faith in Christ.
Mr Horsfield served in congregations in Victoria and Tasmania and was moderator of the Victorian synod in the late ’80s. One of many passions pursued since retirement is writing poetry, as well as hymns with a more modern context.
His latest hymn – New Life in Christ – has won the Australian Hymn Book’s first international hymn competition for original words for hymns based on one of four specific Pauline texts.
The general level competition was for songs which re-imagined themes in Pauline theology and expressed them as song texts accessible to modern worshippers. Mr Horsfield drew inspiration from Romans 6:5: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
He said while there were many great old hymns, he was keen to see the faith of the church explored in more contemporary poetic language.
“I am concerned about how we put the themes of the Christian faith – the foundational building blocks which make the Christian faith distinctive – in such a way that we can sing that faith,” Mr Horsfield said.
“People like to sing the old favourites but many of those are in a more traditional form of poetry and are often not consistent with how we express doctrine in the 21st century.”
Mr Horsfield’s modern focus can be seen in his song Jesus was a Stranger and a Refugee which explores a modern, but biblical, metaphor on the issue of asylum seekers.
Mr Horsfield concedes he does not have the musical skills to write original tunes and would welcome a musical collaborator. He said his process generally involved working on a draft – polishing it five or six times – before having a congregation sing it.
This often led to further revision as some words just did not really fit and that did not become evident until sung by a congregation.
The winners of the competition were announced late last year and the songs were performed at a special service at Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral in November.
The competition received more than 120 entries from Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Belgium. The Australian Hymn Book is investigating the possibility of publishing the songs and other supplementary works in Together in Song (Australian Hymn Book II).
By Nigel Tapp