Stranmillis lay reader wins hymn writing competition

Wednesday January 2nd 2008

Roddy Cowie, who wrote the winning hymn All the loves.Roddy Cowie, a lay reader and choir member at St Bartholomew's Parish, Stranmillis, Belfast, has been named winner of the Hard Gospel Hymn-writing competition.

The results were announced on January 1. Roddy’s hymn, ‘All the loves,’ will receive its world premiere on January 19 at the Hard Gospel Conference on Immigration in Swords, Co Dublin when it will be performed by the Discovery Gospel Choir.

There were 38 hymns submitted from a wide variety of sources. The judges were Melanie Clark Pullen, Bishop Edward Darling and Lorna Palmer.

The main consideration for the competition was the theme 'Love God and love your neighbour'. Each submission also had to be suitable for performance in a number of locations and on a wide variety of musical instruments, making it appropriate for both liturgical and more informal acts of worship.

Roddy, a psychologist at Queen's University, said the hymn was inspired by the book, The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, one of the founding fathers of psychology.

“The love he has in mind is a dynamic force that overwhelms all the various competing impulses that usually pull human beings one way and another, and harnesses all their energy to its own goal,” said Roddy.

Judges Bishop Edward Darling, Melanie Clark Pullen and Lorna Palmer, with Dublin-based Hard Gospel Project Officer, Philip McKinley.Bishop Darling, editor of the current Church Hymnal, was so impressed with 'All the loves' that he believes the winning text and accompanying tune should be made widely available to all parishes throughout the island.

 “This would make a deep impression on the whole Church of Ireland as to what the purpose of the Hard Gospel project is all about,” the Bishop said.

“The hymn would be a lasting fruit of the message which the Hard Gospel has been proclaiming since its inception.”

A transcript of the winning hymn will be sent to every parish in the Church of Ireland, as an added resource in their weekly worship. The tune (and other songs) can be found on Roddy's website ( There are also plans to release a recorded CD of ‘All the Loves’ for parish use, at a later date. The lyrics of All the loves can be downloaded here.

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