Lanny Wolfe (born 1942) is a Christian songwriter who has won numerous awards for his song, to include a “Song of the Year” Dove Award for his song, “More than Wonderful,” which was popularized by Sandi Patti in 1984.
Wolfe’s songs are included in a number of hymnals. “Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place” is in the most hymnals, but “Greater Is He that Is in Me” is close behind. Wolfe also wrote a version of “For God So Loved the World” that is in several hymnals.
Wolfe served for a number of years as the Dean of the School of Music at Jackson Bible School, Jackson College of Ministries—but his most significant influence has been introducing music influenced by black Gospel music to Pentecostal churches.
“Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place” is based on Jesus promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). It emphasizes the senses—feeling, hearing, touching, and seeing. We can feel the presence of the Lord—and hear the brush of the angel’s wings—and see glory on each face.
Wolfe was inspired to write this song in 1977 when a friend invited The Lanny Wolfe Trio to sing at a dedication service for a new building. “Surely the Presence” is the song that the Trio sang for that occasion.
This song is especially important, because it helps us to get the emphasis right. We often talk about “the church on the corner,” by which we mean a particular building. However, the building is not the church. The people are the church. The building is just the place where the church meets.
“Surely the presence” captures that nicely. The only reference to the building is the phrase “this place.” The song shifts the focus to people, as in “each face” and “His children” and “two or three.” It’s a good reminder to all of us of the real meaning of “church.”
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright, 2014, Richard Niell Donovan