Learn about the history behind the hymn “A Shelter in the Time of Storm” in this quick one-minute read by our co-pastor, Dr. Jim Willoughby.
God chose to use two different men to pen the lyrics and music to the hymn A Shelter in the Time of Storm. Vernon J. Charlesworth authored the lyrics. The music was composed by a man named Ira Sankey.
Vernon was born in Barking, Essex in 1839. In 1860, he married Eliza Moore and in 1861 became the school master at a Baptist church in England. He then became the co-pastor of the famous Surrey Chapel with pastor, Newman Hall in 1864. In 1869, he was appointed as the head of the Charles Spurgeon Stowell Orphanage. The purpose of the orphanage was to provide a home for fatherless children that put the children in a Christian environment instead of the state run homes. The state run homes had become known as “poor houses” and typically involved abuse and slave labor. Although this ministry was a tough and expensive one to start, it was one that was worthwhile.
Throughout the early days, Vernon experienced much of the “storms” associated with the ministry. However, through faithfulness, discovered that God was the ever-present shelter. Throughout his later ministry, he published a book, several gospel pamphlets, and hymns. One of those hymns was A Shelter in the Time of Storm.
In 1870, a very gifted young baritone by the name of Ira Sankey was attending a gospel meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was here that God crossed his path with evangelist D.L. Moody. Upon hearing him lead a song for the meeting, the famous preacher knew that they should work together. For almost thirty years after that meeting, they worked together in the ministry. It was during this time that Ira Sankey became known as the father of the gospel song.
In 1885, Ira Sankey composed the music that we know today for this song. He wrote: “I found this hymn in a small paper published in London, called ‘The Postman.’ It was said to be a favorite song of the fisherman on the north coast of England, and they were often heard singing it, as they approached their harbors in the time of storm. As the hymn was set to a weird minor tune, I decided to compose one that could more easily be sung by the people.” This song then became a staple in nearly every Baptist Hymnal published since.
We hope you enjoyed this piece of hymn history authored by our pastor, Dr. Jim Willoughby, Temple Baptist Church in Kokomo, IN. For more articles like this, we invite you to visit our blog. For more information about our church, visit our homepage.