Monday, January 30, 2012

In the Name of the Lord -- Phil McHugh, Gloria Gaither, and Sandi Patty

The three of them wrote a winner. Phil McHugh, Gloria Gaither, and Sandi Patty together wrote the song “In the Name of the Lord”, the 1987 Dove Award winner for song of the year. What were these three thinking when they wrote it? Many times, all that is heard of the song is its chorus, but there seem to be clues in the other words of the song that suggest some answers to what the three composers were feeling in the mid-1980s. What they have recorded may speak to you and me…after all, might that be why the song became so well-known and loved, because its message rings true with its hearers? 

Gloria Gaither and Sandi Patti are well-known on the contemporary Christian music landscape, but Phil McHugh seems to be more of a mystery. Gaither and Patty have extensive biographies we can read (see sites listed below), but all that is readily available about McHugh is a list of the albums (apparently a total of five between the mid-1970s and 1998, the latest which is titled “Ride the Earth”) with which he is credited. Yet, his name appears first among the three composers when credits for this song “In the Name of the Lord” are shown. Was he the principal composer? Answer: unknown. The words of the song in one particular verse (see You-Tube link below for the complete words, performed by Patty) show that at least one or more of the composers felt stricken about life, with disintegrating plans that had left him or her with almost no strength. What were the plans of that composer, and how was that experience resolved? Perhaps you and I can ask McHugh and his fellow composers those questions someday. The message these three were communicating in the song about the effect of Jesus’ name leaves no room for doubt right now, though. It delivers unique benefits for the believer -- strength, power, and hope, direct from the blessed divine Word Himself.

McHugh, and Gaither, and Patty could probably readily think of times they felt feeble, beaten down. But, they don’t wallow in that part. Instead, the song offers a glimpse of Jesus’ life, of a simple carpenter whose being reached those who needed Him most. Simple, common, weak people are willing to draw upon Him for transcendence, to take that frailty that humans offer and magnify it exponentially. That’s quite a name. Maybe that’s why we don’t know more of the composers’ stories here. The point is not to re-tell my story of woe, which is probably very similar to one you or your neighbor might tell. Rather, focus on Him, the really unique, inimitable One.  If you meet McHugh, Gaither, or Patty, you might ask ‘em what was the story. (And, let the rest of us know!) But, someday, the only part that we’ll remember is that which brings bliss -- His name.

The following website offers some biographic information on Gloria Gaither and shows that the song was the 1987 Dove Award song of the year in 1987:

Listing of the albums that Phil McHugh cut:

Complete words of the song, as performed by Sandi Patti is in this You-Tube video:

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