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Still shining after all these years

06 December 2013

jonathon watkins

LOVE it or loathe it, perhaps the best-known modern worship song has reached the landmark age of 25. "Shine, Jesus, shine", which was first released by the songwriter Graham Kendrick (left) in 1988, has crossed continents and denominations, and continues to be among the most played songs in churches today.

Mr Kendrick told the Church Times that he had no idea, when he wrote the song, how popular it would become. "I was constantly writing; so there were a number of songs I was trying, and it was just another one of them." He had written the song into the context of the March For Jesus movement of the late 1980s, he said. "It was kind of a new generation finding its voice, and representing what was happening in the Church," he said.

Something about "Shine, Jesus, shine" seemed to connect with people - even those of no faith. Mr Kendrick tells the story of a man caught in a war zone, watching gunfire and missiles from his hotel room. "Though a non-believer, he felt the need to pray, but did not know how. The only prayer he could think of was in a song he had learned at school, and, as he prayed what words of 'Shine, Jesus, shine' he could remember, a spark of faith ignited, which became a life-changing flame."

Many people have contacted the Church Times to share their memories of the much-travelled song. Alan Scantlebury said: "On the day of March for Jesus, in London, my family and I drove through the main roads of Jeddah [Saudi Arabia], windows wide open, blasting out 'Shine, Jesus, shine'. [It] encouraged us in a place where Christian fellowship was often in twos or threes."

Alison Earey said: "I have a great memory of a houseparty with about five teenage lads doing worship dance, with ribbons, to 'Shine, Jesus, shine'."

"My fond memory of this song", the Revd James Hill said, "goes back to when I was helping out at the youth pilgrimage in Walsingham. I was slightly surprised to hear such a 'low-church' chorus creeping in to the elegant liturgy, until I realised, to my horror, they were actually singing 'Shrine, Mary's shrine'."

Mr Kendrick said: "When people sing worship songs that mean something to them, they become part of their spiritual journey. When people tell me . . . that they came to faith while singing ['Shine, Jesus, shine'], I just sit back and think 'Wow!'"


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