Feast of Henry Alford (January 12)   1 comment

Above:  Henry Alford

Image in the Public Domain



Dean of Canterbury

Henry Alford, born on October 7, 1810, came from a family that had produced clergymen for the Church of England for five consecutive generations.  He continued the legacy as a priest (in London and elsewhere) and as Dean of Canterbury (1857-1871).  He was also a poet, a hymn writer, and Cambridge lecturer.

As a poet Alford edited the works of John Donne, published volumes of his own poetry, and translated Homer’s Odyssey.  His four-volume commentary on the New Testament (1851-1861) depended mostly on the analysis on literary forms and the meanings of Greek texts, not on theology.  (Literary analysis is an essential component of Biblical studies.)

Alford’s epitaph (in Latin) reads, Diversorium Viatoris Hierosolymam Proficiscentis (“the inn of a traveler on his way to Jerusalem”).

Alford’s hymns might be more familiar to churchgoers than his name.  They include “Forward! be our watchword,” “Ten thousand times ten thousand,” and “Come, ye thankful people, come.”

The words to “Come, ye thankful people, come”:

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.



A Prayer by Henry Alford, from The Communion of Saints: Prayers of the Famous, edited by Horton Davies:

O Lord, give us more charity, more self-denial, more likeness to you.  Teach us to sacrifice our comforts to others, and our likings for the sake of doing good.  Make us kindly in thought, gentle in word, gracious in deed.  Teach us that is better to give than to receive; better to forget ourselves than put ourselves forward; better to minister than be ministered to.  And to you, the God of love, be glory and praise forever.  Amen.


Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Henry Alford, who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.  We pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ, through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.   Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)




Revised on November 15, 2016



One response to “Feast of Henry Alford (January 12)

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  1. Pingback: We Walk By Faith and Not By Sight | GATHERED PRAYERS

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