Script - Canon Noel Battye - Tuesday 24th October, 2017
400 years ago, in 1617, Martin Rinkhart became a pastor in his native town of Eilenberg in Germany and just one year later the terrible 30 Years War began.
As a fortified town, Eilenberg was quickly filled with hundreds of refugees from all parts.
It was a terrible time of famine and deprivation for not only was no food being brought IN but there were all those extra mouths to feed as well, and to make matters worse, 20 years into the war the place was also struck by the plague.
Many left the town at that stage, including I’m sorry to say, many of the clergy and at one point Rinkhart was the only cleric left surrounded by the sick and dying.
In all eight thousand people died there and in one particularly bad period he was conducting between 40 and 50 funerals a day.
Overall, he himself buried 4,500 men, women and children including his own wife.
And where is all this leading?
Well, simply that in the midst of all this misery Rinkhart wrote the words of a hymn but he wrote it, not as something for use in church but as a Grace before family meals.
A grace before meals, at a time when meals meant little or nothing apart from those pathetic scraps that are food in times of famine.
Yet another shining example of the fact that very often, those who have least are the most grateful while the greedy are forever grumbling.
And the words of that hymn?
Sung on the day those 30 years of war had ended, and the Treaty of Westphalia was signed on this day in 1648 and sung in churches ever since.
“Now thank we all our God...
Who from our mothers’ arms
Hath blessed us on our way