Our Garden of Song



Book: Our Garden of Song: A Book of Biography of Song Writers of the Church of Christ and Articles and Other Items of Interest of Our Worship in Song

Author: Gene C. Finley, editor

Publisher: Howard Pub. Co., 1980


Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Suitable for anyone

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Finley, Gene C.  Our Garden of Song: A Book of Biography of Song Writers of the Church of Christ and Articles and Other Items of Interest of Our Worship in Song (published in 1980 by Howard Publishing Company, 107 Yellowood Dr., West Monroe, LA  71291).  Anyone familiar with the so-called “Restoration Movement” in nineteenth-century America knows that a lot of emphasis was placed on singing in worship.  Two of the early leaders in the call to restore primitive Christianity were Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844) and Alexander Campbell (1788-1866).  Both men were very interested in the singing of the church, edited songbooks for use in local congregations, and even wrote hymns themselves.  In May of 1828, Campbell brought out his Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs adapted to the Christian Religion, containing 125 hymns.  A second edition appeared in 1829 and a third in 1832.  Meanwhile, Stone, assisted by Thomas Adams, had published The Christian Hymn-Book, Compiled and Published at the Request of the Miami Christian Conference in 1829, with 340 hymns.  After Adams’s death, he joined with John Telemachus Johnson for a new edition in 1832.  However, in 1832, after Campbell and Stone had determined that they were both preaching the same thing, they achieved a union in their efforts, and in 1834 also combined their hymnbooks into Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, Original and Selected–Compiled by A. Campbell, W. Scott, B. W. Stone, and J. T. Johnson–Bethany, Va. 1834, havng 240 hymns.

Their spiritual descendants have continued this interest by writing spiritual songs and publishing various hymnbooks for non-denominational, New Testament Christians to use in singing hymns in worship, including those compiled by E. L. Jorgenson, L. O. Sanderson, Robert C. Welch, J. Nelson Slater, Ellis J. Crum, Alton H. Howard, V. E. Howard, Forrest M. McCann, R. J. Stevens, and John P. Wiegand, among others.   As I was growing up, singing many of these grand old “songs of Zion,” I often wondered just who these people were that wrote them and under what circumstances they were written.  Of course, a large number of the great hymns in our books were written by people from various human denominations.  This does not mean that such songs cannot contain truth or that we should not sing them.  But many were written by those associated with churches of Christ.   Since then, I have become aware that there are many other brethren who are also interested in knowing more about the backgrounds and expositions of the hymns that have been written by our brethren but are hindered by lack of available material.  It was to fill such a void that this volume Our Garden of Song was produced.

Editor Gene Cleveland Finley was born on Jan. 15, 1929, near Gilt Edge, TN, to Hiram Cleveland and Edna Finley. His father was a singing teacher and song-writer, and his mother was an alto singer. Gene has been interested in music all of his life, attending singing schools taught by his father, C. B. Holloway, G. E. Baggett, J. E. Roane, R. H. McNew, and others. In addition to his work of teaching music in public schools at Star City, AR, he has taught some singing schools and produced several songs himself including “Lord, Dismiss Us in Thy Care,” “Oh, What Love!”, and “Father, Forgive Us.”   In 1980, Finley edited this book, Our Garden in Song, which gives biographies of song writers associated with churches of Christ, from such well known figures as Knowles Shaw, Franklin L. Eiland, Will Slater, Austin Taylor, Tillit S. Teddlie, and L. O. Sanderson, to many lesser-known individuals like Palmer Wheeler, Paul Epps, Holland Boring, and Norman Henderson.  Not only does Finley tell each one’s life story but he also gives a representative sample of that person’s songs.  Unfortunately, the book is out of print, but if anyone is interested in hymn writers associated with the Lord’s church and can find a used copy, it is a treasure.

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