Popular Hymn Author Shares Story Behind

Rev. Shen Guangwei
Rev. Shen Guangwei
By Josiah LiJune 21st, 2018

The hymn My Life Doesn't Belong to Me has been popular among Christians in China's three northeastern provinces. A pastor from Liaoning Province said, "The hymn deeply and expressively reflected the life experiences of Christians."

It was created by Rev. Shen Guangwei from Northeast China Theological Seminary.

On April 7, 1998, Rev. Shen attended a pastor ordination ceremony. A church worker expressed her congratulation, "From Rev. Hou, we see that the life of every man who is resolved to dedicate himself to God doesn't belong to himself anymore..." The word kept lingering in his mind, triggering a whirlpool of emotion. Unable to fall asleep, he started to write a hymn that even moved him. 

The lyrics reveal that a Christian determined to follow the Lord will endure various kinds of pruning. He hoped preachers serve both at the times of praises and applauses or criticism and adversities.

However, the new song didn't gain much attention in the beginning but gradually went popular in churches in the Northeast. What was more, it was included in the supplement of the Chinese New Hymnal that contains 400 hymns.

Rev. Shen said that he was fond of the poems made by Mao Zedong and ancient poets like Lu You, Yue Fei, and Su Shi. In composition, he got guidance from a music teacher. Influenced by his father who loved playing instruments, he learned to play erhu, a Chinese two-stringed fiddle. He made his first original hymn in 1991. Now he has created more than 800 hymns included in four hymnals.

Less well known is that his songwriting hobby was "pushed" by an elderly sister. About three decades ago, an old sister asked him to recommend hymns, but she almost sang the "recommended songs". Wanting not to dismay her, he started to write songs. Then he fell in love with songwriting.

He also consulted some accomplished sacred musicians like Professor Ma Geshun, the deceased top director in China in 1950, and Professor Chen Zemin.

Rev. Shen often encourages believers to sing hymns. "We should sing hymns in the church and at home; sing when there are people and also when nobody hears you. Sing your favorite hymns. Sing several hymns every day, then worries will run away from you."

Now he, nearly 70 years old, keeps writing hymns. He is committed to singing one of his original hymns every Sunday. Moreover, he cooperates with some young Christians who are lovers of hymns, "I follow young people to sing hymns. While singing, I find the feelings of being a young person,  of praying, and of preaching. I wish more people to love the land and God who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them through these simple melodies on the yellow ground!" 

- Translated by Karen Luo

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