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HYMN 349 Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound

Norwegian: Å nåde underfull og stor

Text: John Newton Tune: William Walker

1. Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found Was blind, but now I see. 2. 'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, And Grace my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear The hour I first believed. 3. Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come. 'Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far And Grace will lead me home. 4. The Lord has promised good to me. His Word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures. 5. When we've been there ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we'd first begun.


Torveig and Per Kivle

I walked into their living room and there sat Per and Torveig, my second cousin and his wife, with a Japanese couple finishing tea. The couple, artists from Japan, had been visiting Edvard Munch sites and Kragerø was on their list. As they were standing reading the sign on the street telling what Munch had painted there, they were astonished to be greeted in fluent Japanese by my cousin Per.

After a brief conversation, he invited them home for tea. Since their English was small, and their Norwegian even smaller, they were thrilled to be able to speak in their native language about their tour.

As we sat there, Torveig’s missionary instincts emerged. She asked me, a hymnologist, to tell the story of John Newton and "Amazing Grace." The movie Amazing Grace had been out for a couple of years so they may have known something about it.

After we sang it, she then told them about Jesus in Japanese and invited us to sing "Jesus Loves Me.” After an earnest prayer in Japanese, they left somewhat dazed by the encounter. Her warm testimony and hospitality made an impression.

Some years before, she and her husband had been with us for the wedding of my nephew. Per had preached in Mindekirken—it was Pentecost, and he preached on how the Holy Spirit points to Christ—peker på. At the lunch after church, Torveig took over for a few moments, teaching the group how to sing a song of thanks. People sang along, surprised by their joy.

She and my mother were soul mates. We visited them in Gjerstad where Per was serving an interim. The parsonage was in the country down a road stretching past a field of grain. I watched them walking arm in arm down the road, the blue heavens shining around them and the golden fields. They looked like pilgrims on the way to Paradise.

Torveig Vestøl Kivle

Yesterday I heard that she had died in Kragerø. We had last seen her and Per in the summer of 2019 and had planned to be there last summer with the family. But the virus stopped that.

Her death came rather suddenly. The force of her love for Jesus and thus all people will be remembered around the world. She spread the joy of salvation wherever she was. When she and Per visited friends of ours, wherever, she might break into prayer and song, to the delight of those who heard.

She was also very funny and would regale us with hilarious stories about events and people in her long life. Usually after a meal when we were sitting around and had just read the word for the day, and prayed, the stories would start, in Norwegian, English and Japanese.

Every summer when I visited them, one could be sure there would be many other visitors at the table—from Japan, the US, and family from all around Norway. I don’t know how she did it, but she did.

I will never forget her face beaming as she sang "Amazing Grace" that sunny August afternoon in Kragerø. Blessed be her memory!


John Newton

Amazing Grace is probably the most well known hymn in the world today. Written by John Newton, a curate in the Anglican church, it became popular especially during the 1960s after Judy Collins recorded it. Newton had a very rough childhood. His mother, who wanted him to be a pastor, died when he was young. His father was at sea. Because he was an unruly child, his father took him to sea when he was only eleven. There with the sailors, he lived a hard life—he became one of the most profane on the ships, able to swear and curse with such violence that it shocked even hardened sailors. He was pressed into duty by the British navy, and later enslaved to an African. He got free and continued working on slave ships to America. He rose to be ship captain. During a storm at sea, he had a powerful experience of salvation, but continued to captain slave ships, saying later he really had to be more deeply converted to understand how evil his work was. His childhood sweetheart was a woman whose parents were not happy about him as a potential mate for their daughter.

Finally, he married her and reformed. He began to oppose slavery and soon became a passionate abolitionist. He began studying Greek and Hebrew and started writing hymns. The Wesleys encouraged him. He became curate in the Olney parish where he took in William Cowper, the writer of “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” Together they published the Olney Hymnal. Amazing Grace was one of the hymns in the book. What tune it had, we do not know. But it did cross the ocean to America. William Walker, editor of The Southern Harmony, put the text to the tune "New Britain." From there it went on to become more and more popular.

Walker added the last stanza to Newton’s hymn. It has become a secular standard around the world. Because it doesn’t mention Jesus it has been acceptable to those without faith. Newton without a doubt meant the grace of Jesus.

The movie Amazing Grace tells the story of his work with the great opponent of slavery in England, William Wilberforce, who successfully led the drive to have Parliament ban the slave trade.

Mahalia Jackson, one of the first to record it, made it into a spiritual. Johnny Cash made it a Country western song, etc. etc. Played with bagpipes it sounds like it did originally in its home in the celtic regions of Britain.


Royal Scots Dragoon Bagpipes

Mahalia Jackson

Judy Collin’s version

Soweto Gospel Choir

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Howard University Choir

Written in honor of Per and Torveig's visit Pentecost 2006

Text 2008 and Tune 2012 Copyright Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.

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