781

My Only Comfort

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song leads God’s people to affirm their faith through a paraphrase of Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1.

781

My Only Comfort

Additional Prayers

A Prayer of Acclamation to Jesus Christ
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we belong to you, body and soul.
You are our only comfort.
 
You paid the penalty for our sins.
You are our only comfort.
 
You have set us free from the tyranny of the devil.
You are our only comfort.
 
Cradle to grave, you assure us of eternal life.
You are our only comfort in life and in death. Amen.
[based on the Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 1]
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
781

My Only Comfort

Tune Information

Name
RESIGNATION
Key
C Major
Meter
8.6.8.6 D

Recordings

781

My Only Comfort

Hymn Story/Background

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) is the most ecumenical and warmly praised catechism of the Reformation perioed. The first question and answer is a profoundly comforting creedal statement that has been memorized by countless Christians in the Reformed tradition and recited in worship services, especially at funerals. Marlene Veenstra adapted the text to fit the familiar hymn tune RESIGNATION as a means of not only singing this treasured confession, but helping more people memorize it as well. Her setting became well known in her home church, started to spread, and was earlier published in Reformed Worship 72 (June 2004).
 
RESIGNATION is another of the anonymous tunes from the shape-note hymnal tradition in the Southern United States; William Walker included it in his Southern Harmony (1835) set to Watts' text. That association of text and tune has been main­tained in many hymnals and anthems, including a famous choral setting by Virgil Thompson.
 
Like so many American folk tunes, RESIGNATION is pentatonic. This rounded bar form tune (AABA) has a sturdy harmonization. Sing in unison or harmony.
— Bert Polman

The versification provided here was written by Marlene Veenstra, a member and long time secretary at the First Christian Reformed Church, Sioux Center, Iowa. She adapted it to a more regular metrical form so that it could be sung to a familiar tune. Of necessity, some words had to change, but her arrangement is a very singable and faithful rendering of this beloved text. She chose the familiar folk hymn tune RESIGNATION, a common meter double (CMD) tune. And while the text does not exactly match that meter, it fits quite well and therefore sings well. If members of your congregation would like to sing rather than speak this beautiful expression of faith, consider this setting.
 
-Reformed Worship, June 2004
— Emily Brink

Author Information

The Heidelberg Catechism was composed in Heidelberg at the request of Elector Frederick III, who ruled the Palatinate, an influential German province, from 1559 to 1576. An old tradition credits Zacharius Ursinus and Casper Olevianus with being coauthors of the new catechism. Both were certainly involved in its composition, although one of them may have had primary responsibility. All we know for sure is reported by the Elector in his preface of January 19, 1563. It was, he writes, “with the advice and cooperation of our entire theological faculty in this place, and of all superintendents and distinguished servants of the church” that he secured the preparation of the Heidelberg Catechism. The catechism was approved by a synod in Heidelberg in January 1563. A second and theird German edition, each with small additions, as well as a Latin translations were published the same year in Heidelberg. Soon the catechism was divided into fifty-two sections so that one Lord’s Day could be explained in preaching each Sunday of the year.
 
The Synod of Dort in 1618-1619 approved the Heidelber Catechism, and it soon became the most ecumenical of the Reformed catechisms and confessions. The catechism has been translated into many European, Asian, and African languages and is the most widely used and most warmly praised catechism of the Reformed period.
Psalter Hymnal, 1987, pg. 860
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

William Walker (b. Cross Keys, SC, 1809; d. Spartenburg, SC, 1875) was known as "Singin' Billy." A Southern Baptist singing school teacher, Walker composed his first hymn tune, SOLEMN CALL, at the age of eighteen. With his brother-in-law, Benjamin F. White, he compiled the famous hymnbook The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1835), which sold over six hundred thousand copies over the next thirty years. The first edition of Southern Harmony is considered to be primarily a borrowing from Ananias Davisson's Kentucky Harmony (1815), another four-shape-note tunebook. In his travels through Appalachia, Walker collected many folk tunes. His work repre­sents one of the best collections of early American folk hymns, many of which were derived from traditional melodies of the British Isles.
 
Because White's work in compiling The Southern Harmony was uncredited by Walker in 1835, White and E.J. King published the equally important tunebook The Sacred Harp (1844), which led to rivalry between those who sang from the two books. In 1867 Walker expanded the four-shape notation in his book to seven shapes and published it as Christian Harmony. The Southern Harmony and The Sacred Harp are both still popular tunebooks today and are used in regular hymn-sings in various communities through­out the southeastern United States.
— Bert Polman

Dale Grotenhuis (b. Cedar Grove, WI, 1931; d. Jenison, Mi, August 17, 2012) was a member of the 1987 Psalter Hymnal 1987 Revision Committee, and was professor of music and director of choral music at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, from 1960 until he retired in 1994 to concentrate on composition. Educated at Calvin College; Michigan State University, Lansing; and Ohio State University, Columbus; he combined teaching with composition throughout his career and was a widely published composer of choral music. He also directed the Dordt choir in a large number of recordings, including many psalm arrangements found in the 1959 edition of the Psalter Hymnal.
— Bert Polman
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