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The Servant Song

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This text is one of a growing body of songs centering on social justice concerns and servanthood. The identical first and last stanzas express the heart of the song: God’s grace is needed to develop the art of serving others as well as the humble art of being served. Other themes in the song are pilgrimage, community, and empathy. 


Sing! A New Creation


The Servant Song

Tune Information

D Major


Musical Suggestion

The melody proceeds with stepwise regularity, deviating from this “traveling” pattern in order to highlight the next-to-last word in each stanza. Keep the tempo steady, feeling in two except for the built-in ritard on the 3/4 bar—then simply keep the quarter pulse going without any further ritard. Consider having different groups sing different stanzas (right/left or men/women, for example), so as to sing to each other. Accompaniment options include organ; piano with violin on the melody; a pair of guitars, one picking the melody with the other arpeggiating the chords; or a string quartet. 

The Servant Song

Hymn Story/Background

Richard Gillard, the composer and lyricist of ‘The Servant Song’ described its origins in the following words. “It was in the first half of 1976 that I wrote Verse 3 (‘I will hold the Christ-light for you ...’) but, initially, no more than that. It wasn’t until one particularly summery Sunday afternoon in December 1976 or January 1977, back in Auckland, that I took that scrap of paper out of my guitar case and began to meditate on that single verse, exploring the possibilities that it suggested. I remember that the other verses came quickly—although not in the order in which we now sing the Song.” In 2001, the hymn was featured in a Remembrance Sunday broadcast from York Minster by the British TV programme, Songs of Praise. Richard Gillard adds that, although it “sounded wonderful played on the Minster’s grand organ, I still prefer the down-to-earth groundedness of a simple folk-song treatment but I let it go long ago. And that is as it should be.”

Composer Information

Betty Carr Pulkingham (b. North Carolina, 1928) was born and educated in North Carolina, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Music in 1949. Following graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music she became an Instructor in Music Theory at the University of Texas, a post she held for four years. Her musical career has included direction of choirs (church, school, and secular), including seven years as choir director at Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas, where her late husband, The Rev. Graham Pulkingham, served as rector. They were parents of six children, and became founding members of the Community of Celebration. During the years of the Community's residence in Great Britain (1074-85) Betty had a primary role in the development of resources for Christian worship and nurture.
She has co-edited three contemporary songbooks: Sound of Living Waters, Fresh Sounds, and Cry Hosanna!, as well as a hymnal supplement, Come Celebrate! for major publishers in the U.K and the U.S.A. Her other published works include two books: Little Things in the Hands of a Big God, and Sing God a Simple Song; a responsorial psalter for Years A, B, and C; hymns and octavo anthems; music for children; and four settings of service music for the Eucharist. She has helped produce more than forty recordings and has served on the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Church Music.
A significant aspect of Betty Pulkingham's teaching ministry in music and worship has been the ability to blend successfully the discipline of traditional, classical musicianship with the folk arts in a manner which draws congregations into a deepened and lively experience of worship. In 2006 she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia; and in 1997 she received the degree of Doctoris in Sacris Litteris from Wycliff College of the University of Toronto.
Since 1993 Betty Pulkingham has made her home in Burlington, North Carolina, where, in 1996 she married Herbert Wendell, with whom she shared oversight of the care of her aging mother and aunt until his death in 2001. She is a Companion of the Community of Celebration in Aliquippa, PA.
— Paraclete Press (

Author and Composer Information

Richard Gillard (b. 1953), a self-taught musician, composed this song in 1977. He was born in England; his family moved to New Zealand when he was three, and he has lived there ever since. 

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