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Rock of Ages (Ruth Buchanan version)

A couple of reasons why I appreciate this arrangement:

  • It’s very singable. Cheryl and I first heard this at YLC conference, and picked it up reasonably quickly.
  • It matches the words better. In my opinion, Thomas Hasting’s original “Toplady” tune and Richard Redhead’s Petra variation both sound a bit too bright and chirpy, compared with the helplessness and pathos that Augustus Toplady’s words evoke. Ruth Buchanan’s melody gets more urgent (diminutes) and lifts in pitch right at the emotional climax of the verse.
  • It suits a contemporary band better. Ruth’s melody I feel gives more space for each line of the hymn, which allows the church to think more on the words. Guitar and bass players might also appreciate the chords changing around less often.
  • It’s helped many younger Christians sing historical-redemptive theology. Toplady has packed this hymn with rich imagery, the most obvious one being that Jesus Christ is our Rock of refuge (Numbers 20:11, 1 Corinthians 10:4) and the only source of salvation. Verse 1’s line about the “double cure” helps to image both the justifying and sanctifying work of Christ on behalf of His children, and the third verse alludes to Genesis with “naked come to Thee for dress”. Ruth Buchanan’s melody continues to give wings to this hymn of the faith.

If you’d like to sing this song at your church, look up the following details on CCLI:

Rock of Ages Words by Rev A.M. Toplady, Music by Ruth Buchanan © 1998 Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students CCLI Song No #3923887.

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