Leicester

Church drops Onward, Christian Soldiers from service

Oadby Royal British Legion club and St Peter's Church Image copyright Google
Image caption Members of the Oadby Royal British Legion club have threatened to boycott the church service across the road

A church has defended the decision to replace Onward, Christian Soldiers with a more multi-cultural sounding hymn to end a Remembrance Sunday parade.

People will instead sing All People That On Earth Do Dwell at St Peter's Church in Oadby, Leicestershire.

The change was made in agreement with the committee of Oadby Royal British Legion.

However, some members of Oadby Royal British Legion social club have threatened to boycott the service.

Some complained to the Leicester Mercury and the story was then picked up by the Daily Mail and other newspapers.

The church service itself will still be Christian, and the new hymn is also Christian in origin.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The committee of Oadby Royal British Legion agreed to the hymn change

The Reverend Steve Bailey said the hymn was changed because people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds attend the service.

"This year for the first time Oadby Multicultural Group will be laying a wreath at the War Memorial as well as the one I will lay on behalf of the parish," Rev Bailey said.

"We agreed the change in hymn with the Oadby Royal British Legion who run this major civic event because members of the community from a wide range of cultural backgrounds attend this parade, service and laying of wreaths at the war memorial."

He said the committee of Oadby Royal British Legion had "recognised that people from different faiths served in the Armed Forces".

Onward, Christian Soldiers vs All People That On Earth Do Dwell

Image copyright London Stereoscopic Company
Image caption Arthur Sullivan, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, composed the music to Onward, Christian Soldiers
  • Onward, Christian Soldiers was written as a processional hymn for school children in Yorkshire in the 19th century, and therefore predates both of the world wars
  • The words, by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, are a metaphor for a spiritual battle against Satan and were not intended to describe real soldiers fighting a war
  • The music was composed by Arthur Sullivan, famous for his operas with W.S. Gilbert
  • All People That On Earth Do Dwell is also a Christian hymn and contains references to "God", "the Lord", and "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost"
  • The hymn was sung at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953

Ian Thorpe, vice-chairman of the social club, told the Leicester Mercury: "It's been done nearly every year in recent memory but he said they're not doing it because not everyone at the service will be Christians - it's not the 'soldiers' bit, it's the 'Christian' bit.

"One family, who go to the church, have said they're going to stand outside the church and sing it."

Rev Bailey said he is happy to discuss the matter with members of the social club, which is based across the road from the church.

"I understand that the British Legion branch is now discussing their social club members' complaints with the individuals who raised them," he said.