Posted by: rcottrill | May 21, 2010

Today in 1867 – Frederick Blom Born

NOTE: My story below of Fred Blom’s life is taken from numerous sources. However, it’s also been challenged by some. As happens occasionally, there are conflicting details of how a hymn came to be written. Often, both contain factual elements, but it may not be easy to combine the two.

Don Hustad, in his Dictionary-Handbook to Hymns for the Living Church, has two divergent accounts about Blom and his song, and says he’s been unable to reconcile them. The two notes below by Mats Ahlgren, a reader of my blog, have some details I haven’t seen elsewhere. I encourage you to check them out as well.

Graphic Fred BlomWe must not set pastors on a pedestal as some kind of plaster saints who have achieved near perfection. Frederick Arvid Blom certainly had not. Born in Sweden, he immigrated to America in the 1890’s, and began serving as an officer in the Salvation Army in the city of Chicago. Later, he pastored a Mission Covenant Church. But his life took a radical downward turn around 1915.

Blom became spiritually backslidden and resigned from the ministry. He says, “I became embittered with myself, [and] the world.” He drifted into a life of drunkenness and sin, and eventually was involved in illegal activities. When he was caught, he was convicted and sent to prison. But the Lord kept His hand on His wayward child. There, surrounded by locked gates and iron bars, he cried out to God, and sought forgiveness for his sins.

With his sentence fully served, Blom was released. When the prison gates clanged shut behind him, he felt the delivering power of God in a special way. It brought to his mind some gates of another kind. He rejoiced that not only was he no longer locked away as a prisoner, but he was assured of a welcome one day at the pearly gates of the heavenly city. With that thought in mind Frederick Blom wrote a hymn he called Because of the Blood. We know it by the opening phrase of the chorus.

Love divine, so great and wondrous,
Deep and mighty, pure, sublime!
Coming from the heart of Jesus,
Just the same through tests of time.

He the pearly gates will open,
So that I may enter in;
For He purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin.

Like a dove when hunted, frightened,
As a wounded fawn was I;
Brokenhearted, yet He healed me,
He will heed the sinner’s cry.

(2) Today in 1922 – Doris Akers Born
One of ten children, Doris Mae Akers was a gifted composer. Her family moved to Missouri when Doris was 5 years old. There as a musical prodigy and a self-taught musician, Doe (as she was known to her family) wrote her first gospel song at the age of 10. From her teen years, Doris Akers sang and played with various musical groups. She wrote over 300 gospel songs.

Akers received many awards, including back-to-back “Gospel Music Composer of the Year” in both 1960 and 1961. In 1992, she was honored by the Smithsonian Institution as “the foremost black gospel songwriter in the United States.”  Doris Akers died in 1995. She was posthumously inducted to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Among many songs she wrote, is the popular 1963 gospel song There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit. It came to her one Sunday morning as she was about to lead the choir she directed into a church service. They had a brief time of prayer, but Doris Akers did not feel they had prayed enough. They began to pray again, and the fervour and blessing of that prayer meeting was such that nobody wanted to leave. Finally, Miss Akers told them, “We have to go….But there is such a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place.” Later she translated those words into a song.

There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place,
And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord.
There are sweet expressions on each face,
And I know they feel the presence of the Lord.


Responses

  1. Thanks for the comment on the blog Robert!

    • Welcome! Drop by any time. 🙂

  2. Interesting about Fred Bloom, but not fully true. No evidence of being in jail, but he left his ministry when living in North Point, Washington,around 1915. He became some sort of trading agent and went back to drinking, the reason for his first connection to Salvation Army early 1890 in Connecticut. His first marriage ended when the wife died just after giving birth to a daughter. His second marriage was now, 1917, a disaster and ended 1918 with a divorce. He wrote the song in the home of a Salvation Army officier in Chicago late 1917.

    • Thanks for your comments. They illustrate a problem I’ve come across once in awhile (though rarely)–a couple of different accounts of the origin of a hymn or gospel song. Unless you have first-hand information to support your alternate version, I’ll stick with the one I posted.

      I notice, checking four usually reliable sources, that Ken Osbeck (101 More Hymn Stories) says basically the same thing as I have, as does Cliff Barrows (Crusade Hymn Stories), and Salvation Army Officer Henry Gariepy (Songs in the Night), while Donald Hustad (Dictionary-Handbook to Hymns for the Living Church) gives both versions in some detail, and says he wasn’t able to reconcile them. (That, incidentally, is a solution I’ve sometimes found. That the two versions of the hymn’s background each contain facts that need to be fitted together.)

      • Some of my sources are in Swedish, taken down after his return to Sweden and when he ministered in Säter, Rättvik and Uddevalla. They are also told to the family, and his granddaughter (in his third marriage) also confirms part of it.

        His child from the first marriage is not found (by me) in any records, more than what the War Cry has when Fred’s first wife died in 1900. Reading the book Fred published in 1916 gives some explanations, and also describes part of his second marriage with Matilda, their two children, Viola and Wendell.

        Violas two children (grandchildren to Fred) carry a burden from Matilda, who was very angry on Fred, and they are not willing to talk to much about their grandfather. Rumours are about other things than socialism, the rumour about being in jail has not been proved (as I have found), perhaps you have more information about that.

        He wrote the song at the home of Blomgrens in Chicago and I have been told that the original manuscript has now been found (again). One reason for visiting Blomgren might be that Fred married the couple in 1902, when studying at North Park but also partly working as Salvation Army officer

        I can also add that it is well known that Fred had problem with drinking, that’s why he ended his work as captain on boats early 1890. He had problems with that even after coming back to Sweden, but was forgiven as he, by his own experience, gathered a lot of people with the same problem, sometimes so much so the congregation had to ask him to stop. They couldn’t take care of all new members.

        Sadly, his son in third marriage suffered from the same disease, and so did his grandson (in third marriage), he is now in a special home for persons with alcohol based dementia, and has forgotten most about the stories he heard as a boy.

        As you say, there is probably part of the truth in every published story, but I won’t accept the jail story until I have found proof.

        I can also add the Fred now rests in an unmarked grave in Ramneröds cemetery in Uddevalla, Sweden. His hymn is still very popular, the most wished song by homeless and similar people when you ask for their favourite It was amazing to hear the hymn being sung in a popular Swedish “Sing together TV program” from an outdoor arena, 25,000 Swedes singing an old hymn.

        Regards
        Mats

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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