In late December 1772, Rev John Newton prepared his sermon in the attic study of his Vicarage home in Church Street, Olney. During his New Year’s Day morning service on the first of January 1773, the congregation at Newton’s parish church of St Peter & St Paul will have heard him give his sermon based on 1 Chronicles 17, verses 16 and 17. To accompany this sermon, Newton also wrote a new hymn for his congregation to sing. When it was first published in print in 1779, it was given the title, ‘Faith’s review and expectation’. Today, it is known and sung around the world as ‘Amazing Grace’. This makes 1st January 2023 Amazing Grace’s official 250th birthday.
To mark the occasion, a New Year’s Day Service was held at Newton’s parish church of St. Peter & St Paul. Hymns were chosen by the four churches in Olney and members of the Amazing Grace 250 partners. You can find the programme of the order of service and participants in the programme below.
The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Bishop of Dover and the Bishop in Canterbury preached the 250th anniversary sermon and prayers were led by the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham.
The full congregation of nearly 300, of course, sang Amazing Grace and lifted the roof.
The collection from the day raised £1,358.91 for the charity Unseen & the Modern Slavery Helpline.
CBS News America had earlier visited the Cowper & Newton Museum, the parish church of St Peter & St Paul and the town of Olney itself to film for their Christmas Day broadcast titled ‘The Story of Amazing Grace.’ The web story of can be found here: www.cbsnews.com/news/the-story-of-amazing-grace
‘In January 1, 1773, in Olney, England, The Rev. John Newton, a slave trader-turned-abolitionist, gave a sermon about personal redemption. Half a century later his words were paired with music [a tune called New Britain], and would become one of the best-known hymns in the world, “Amazing Grace.” Correspondent Ramy Inocencio talks with music journalist Steve Turner about the song’s history, and with folk singer Judy Collins, whose 1970 performance marked a rebirth of the beloved spiritual.’
ITV News and BBC TV and Radio also broadcast on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day:
On BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship on New Year’s Day morning, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, preached on the transforming power of grace and its abiding power in our world today.
In the afternoon, the Cowper & Newton Museum, the Amazing Grace Pilgrimage Walk, the MK Rose Cenotaph Trust, the Choir of the church of Christ the Cornerstone, the Milton Keynes Kenyan Ladies Choir and the Parks Trust partnered in a free event held in Middleton Hall and at the MK Rose.
Debbie Brock, the High Sherriff of Buckingham and Cllr Amanda Marlow, Mayor of Milton Keynes gave the welcome to everyone to the event at Middleton Hall.
The Rev’d Hugh Reid, curate of St Peter & St Paul, Olney, once the parish church of the Rev’d John Newton, gave a message of Grace.
Music was provided by Adrian Boynton, Christ the Cornerstone Choir and the MK Kenyan Ladies Choir. This included music inspired by the Olney Hymns and of course – a rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ with verses also sung in Gīkūyūone, which is one of many Kenyan languages.
The amazing Amazing Grace 250 balloon pillars then led everyone on a short walk to the MK Rose in Campbell Park. Julie Rose of the Parks Trust welcomed the group.
The finale was, of course, the singing of Amazing Grace by everyone there.
The Kenyan Ladies Choir singing Amazing Grace.
Throughout the day the Museum’s social media channels posted and shared the news of the day and choirs and performers shared their own renditions of this iconic hymn.
Pop on over to the dedicated Amazing Grace 250 Facebook page and the Cowper & Newton Museum Instagram and Twitter accounts to catch up on the day.
#amazinggrace250 #amazinggrace on social media or @AmazingGrace250 and @CowpNewtMuseum
Find out more about the hymn Amazing Grace on the Cowper & Newton Museum’s website
There is also a virtual exhibition Amazing Grace and the town of Olney