Hymn Story

The Church’s One Foundation

Hymn lists

by book of Bible

If you had known Samuel Stone, chances are that you might have admired him on one hand and been distressed by his behavior on the other.  A priest of the Church of England, he devoted himself to serving the poor and vulnerable, but his athletic build and intense passion sometimes led him afar.  It is said that, on one occasion, he gave a thorough beating to a man whom he found mistreating a little girl.

Or you might have admired Stone for whipping a bully! Some would and some wouldn’t.

Stone served as a passionate defender, not only of the poor and vulnerable, but also of the faith.  He was inspired to write “The Church’s One Foundation” in response to a church controversy nearly half a world away.  In South Africa, Bishop John Colenso had begun to question whether Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.  Bishop Robert Gray moved to discipline Colenso, and the resulting controversy reverberated throughout the denomination.

Stone wrote “The Church’s One Foundation” as one of twelve hymns based on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles Creed.  He hoped that these hymns would help people to better comprehend the creed that they oft recited but seldom understood.  He also hoped that they would support the conservative side of the controversy that was rocking the church.  “The Church’s One Foundation” is the only one of those hymns that is still widely sung today—and widely sung it is!  But most hymnals leave out some of Stone’s more polemical verses.

Samuel Wesley, the grandson of Charles Wesley, wrote the music for this hymn.

— Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan