18 October 2022

Andrew Wileman: 'Daily Facebook posts inspired my new book'

Emily Bright

Andrew Wileman

Andrew Wileman BEM reveals to Emily Bright why he’s written Songs of the Faith.

‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. ‘Be Thou My Vision’. ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’. For many Salvationists, classic hymns such as these have shaped their worship. Songs of the Faith, a new devotional guide, partners popular hymn lyrics with words of spiritual encouragement.

Assistant Director of Older People’s Services Andrew Wileman explains his thinking behind the book: ‘At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the older people’s ministry team that I lead decided to do some daily devotionals on our Silver Linings Facebook page for older Salvationists.

‘We wanted to provide some hope, encouragement and inspiration during the early days of the pandemic. What I didn’t realise is I’d be writing them for two years. I’d highlight the stories behind some of our great hymns and songs, particularly those found in the Salvation Army songbook, and link them with themes of encouragement or challenge. These became the inspiration for Songs of the Faith.’

Someone holding a phone and looking at a Facebook group called 'Silver Linings - Older People's Ministries' with a photo of The Salvation Army's red shield
Daily Facebook posts on the Silver Linings – Older People's Ministries Facebook page were the inspiration for the book

The book contains 52 devotional entries – one for every week of the year – from various contributors, each focusing on the background or themes of a hymn. Thematic questions and a prayer bookend each entry, with some devotional contributions reflecting on Christian festivals, such as Easter, Advent and Christmas.

Andrew recalls one of the entries, based on the hymn ‘Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus’. The song was inspired by Dudley Tyng, a young preacher in Philadelphia who used to deliver sermons to the nearby YMCA.

‘One day, while working on his father’s farm, he had a very bad accident,’ says Andrew. ‘His arm was damaged in farm machinery and he died as a result of his injuries.

‘Church leaders and people from the YMCA came together as he was dying and asked him: “What shall we do?” And he said: “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” His friend decided to write about this in a hymn. When you think about the line ‘the arm of flesh will fail you’ and where that came from, there’s an added resonance and importance.’

Songs of Faith book cover, featuring musical notes and song lyrics
'Songs of the Faith' is available to buy now from SP&S

Andrew hopes that by delving into the relatively unknown origins of hymns, Songs of the Faith ‘will bring to life stories written by ordinary people through history, often facing some of the challenges that we face in our lives.’

He adds: ‘The hymn writers wanted to express something of their love for Jesus and what he was doing in their life, or as a response to a significant challenge. I want these stories to be an encouragement, allowing people to think through how these songs and hymns, some written hundreds of years ago, reflect the human condition for us today.’

Many hymns have echoed down through generations, the wisdom and theology expressed in their lyrics helping worshippers to connect with God. Andrew elaborates on why he thinks worship music resonates with people on a deeper level:

‘Songs and hymns are milestones that accompany us throughout our spiritual life. They are played at christenings, dedications, weddings and funerals. They are such a great treasure trove of prayer, devotion, witness and testimony. Hymns are a wonderful source that Salvationists and anybody can use as a prayer, a challenge or a witness to their own faith.’

He hopes that Songs of the Faith can serve as a devotional guide for personal discipleship or in small groups where people can talk and pray through the themes and stories.

The book’s heart lies in older people’s ministries, although Andrew seeks to reach a wide audience with it.

‘The hymns within Songs of the Faith give encouragement and hope to people of all ages,’ he affirms. ‘The stories and songs of their lives need to be heard and sung widely across the Church.’

Written by

Emily Bright

Emily Bright

Staff Writer

Buy the book

'Songs of the Faith' is available to buy for £6.99 from SP&S.

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