CAPTION: Nick Shutt says his songwriting is inspired by Dartmoor, where he lives

New Covid-19 Ascension Hymn for Devon

Posted: 22nd May, 2020

Nick Shutt, the Archdeacon of Plymouth, says he was inspired to write a new hymn for Ascension to try to make sense of the Covid-19 pandemic and how it has changed our lives.

The song was performed by the Lee Abbey worship band as part of the Diocese of Exeter Ascension Day Service, which was led by Nick and filmed at the church on top of Brentor, Dartmoor.

Ascension takes place 40 days after Easter Sunday and is when Christians remember the day Jesus’ ascended into Heaven after he rose from the dead (Acts 1:9-11).

Here’s Nick’s reflection on songwriting, Ascension and what it means for us now:

The Ascension Day service was filmed at St Michel de Rupe Church on Brentor

“I have inflicted many of my songs and hymns over the years on the good folk of West Dartmoor Mission Community. I have lots of them!

“My inspiration usually comes after looking at a Bible passage or prayerfully considering some events that are taking place.

“I cannot pin down where the words come from – they just come and I can usually write most of a song fairly quickly and then re-visit it to hone it up.

Ascension Hymn Lyrics

Such bittersweet sad parting

Redeemer, your work be done.

Ascending into glory

The Spirit now can come

To comfort and awaken

In us, the need to be

The people who are walking

The way of Calvary.

That way, there is none other

By which the world can see

The love of God in Jesus

Who died to set us free

To love and deal compassion

To friend and foe alike

Who bid us journey onwards

Towards a brighter light.

In days of desolation

And in times of dark despair

The Spirit moves more closely

To comfort and to care

Through hands and lives once broken

Restored to shine as lights

Who now by our adoption

Acquire a new birthright

The dance of God the Father,

And the Son whose dance lives on,

The dancing Holy Spirit

Forever three in one

Co-equal and eternal

A unity of love

Join hands and hearts and voices

To dance the song of love.

Nick Shutt, 2020

“Many of my songs are context-specific to Devon and Dartmoor because I think it helps to contextualise our faith.

“We hold that what we believe are universal truths, but we have to make sense of them in the context in which we live – so, for example, when I thought about the Ascension this year I had to think about it in the context of Covid-19.

“I also thought about how the disciples would have viewed Jesus’ departure from this earth.

“We are going through some days of desolation”

“Surely, it was a bittersweet experience for them? Their Lord and Saviour was leaving them after the excitement of the resurrection.

“We live in a post-Pentecost era, but they didn’t. We know from the Gospels that the disciples were not the quickest people on the uptake so even though Jesus had spoken at length about the coming of the Holy Spirit, my money is on the hunch that they probably didn’t grasp what was going on.

“There must have been apprehension as to what was going to happen next? Jesus, the Way, had gone from their sight. How were they going to walk on?

“At such times the Spirit of God moves more closely”

“And in many ways these are the questions that we address too. How are we to walk the way of the cross?

“We are going through some days of desolation.

“I’ve had the privilege, but sadness, of conducting two funerals for people who have died from the virus.

“Some are suffering days of desolation and at such times the Spirit of God moves more closely and that is often mediated through the loving actions of friends and neighbours.

“And, importantly, we have hope as Christian people.  That’s not to downplay that suffering is suffering.

“It is to acknowledge that in ways that are so hard to comprehend God loves us so much that we are encircled by an endless dance of love.

“I am glad God is doing the dancing because you’d never get me on Strictly…. that is the background to my Ascension Hymn.”