21

This Is My Father's World

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text is a confession of faith and trust, a testimony that all creation around us is the handiwork of our Father, who made the creation (st. 1), charged us to take good care of it (st. 2), and continues to exercise his kingship over it (st. 3; also see 19 for this theme). The phrase "music of the spheres" in stanza 1 refers to the ancient belief that the planets made music or harmony as they revolved in the universe.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

In this song, we lift our praise for the gifts from God’s creative hand—of the earth, the skies, landscape, time, health, relationships, and, best of all, his Son. Stirring preparation for singing this comes from those confessions which speak of God’s creation of all things, such as Our World Belongs to God, paragraphs 7-12; Belgic Confession, Article 12; and Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Question and Answer 26.
21

This Is My Father's World

Tune Information

Name
TERRA BEATA
Key
D Major
Meter
6.6.8.6. D

Recordings

21

This Is My Father's World

Hymn Story/Background

When he went walking along the shores of Lake Ontario, Maltbie D. Babcock would say, "I'm going out to see my Father's world." He wrote this poem, originally in sixteen stanzas of four lines each; it was published posthumously in Babcock's Thoughts for Everyday Living (1901). Parts of his long poem were joined to form stanzas 1 and 3 in the Psalter Hymnal, 1987. Mary Babcock Crawford, Babcock's granddaugh­ter, wrote stanza 2 in 1972 at a time of increased ecological awareness and concern. That stanza was originally published in the Episcopal Hymnal (1982).
 
TERRA BEATA was originally a traditional English folk tune, a variant of which, entitled RUSPER, appeared in The English Hymnal in 1906. A friend of the elder Babcock, Franklin L. Sheppard adapted it for the text. TERRA BEATA (also called TERRA PATRIS) is Latin for "beautiful world."
 
A lively melody with an extended range, the tune requires a light manner of performance as well as light accompaniment. Try using guitars and recorders. Harmony singing is fine as long as voices stay light and energetic. Organists, choose light and bright foundation stops, not heavy diapasons. Easily learned by children, this is a vivacious hymn that would be hampered by plodding or weightiness. Observe a ritard only on the last line of stanza 3.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Maltbie D. Babcock (b. Syracuse, NY, 1858; d. Naples, Italy, 1901) graduated from Syracuse University, New York, and Auburn Theological Seminary (now associated with Union Theological Seminary in New York) and became a Presbyterian minister. He served the Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City. In Baltimore he was especially popular with students from Johns Hopkins University, but he ministered to people from all walks of life. Babcock wrote hymn texts and devotional, poems, some of which were published in The School Hymnal (1899).
 
Mary Babcock Crawford (b. Salem, OR, 1909) attended Occidental College, Los Angeles, California, and received master's degrees from both San Francisco Theological Seminary and Columbia University, New York City. She has held administrative posts at Occidental College and at Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina. A United Methodist, she retired in Pebble Beach, California, where she was active in choral music well into her seventies.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Franklin L. Sheppard (b. Philadelphia, PA, 1852; d. Germantown, PA, 1930) arranged the tune for Babcock's text and published it in the Presbyterian church school hymnal Alleluia (1915), edited by Sheppard (Babcock and Sheppard were friends).
 
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Sheppard entered the family foundry business in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1875. He was organist at Zion Episcopal Church and later was an elder and music director of the Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. President of the Presbyterian Board of Publications, Sheppard also served on the committee that prepared the Presbyterian Hymnal of 1911. In the history of hymnody he is remembered primarily for arranging the tune TERRA BEATA for “This Is My Father's World.”
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

In ancient times, people believed that as the planets revolved in the universe, they made music or harmony. This is the belief Maltbie Babcock referred to in the line, “and round me rings the music of the spheres.” Though this belief has since been disproven, we know that objects in space do in fact emit sounds. Even more amazing, the ocean also makes noises at its very lowest and darkest depths—sounds which scientists are still unable to identify. The whole universe is singing a song of its creation, revealing something to us about its Creator. But, as Albert Bailey writes, “in stanza three, the author realizes that all’s not right with the world.” Creation is fallen and broken. Yet, it also still belongs to God. We are thus charged to listen attentively to the voice of God in his world, from the heights of space to the depths of the ocean, and witness how he restores it, listening for our own calling to be stewards of creation.
— Laura de Jong
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