Bell, John Lamberton
Author & Composer
b Kilmarnock, Ayrshire 1949. Univ of Glasgow (degrees in Arts and Divinity after one false start and an interval working as a volunteer in London and Amsterdam). He was then ordained in the Ch of Scotland. His work with the Iona Community (where ‘there is no dualism between politics and piety’—JLB) began with youth ministry in 1984; with Graham Maule he initiated training programmes for young people committed to inner-city work. The Wild Goose Worship Group arose from this, subsequently publishing many collections of new hymns and songs in a folk idiom (with prayers and other worship material) and texts relevant to contemporary concerns. Based in Glasgow, his ministry takes him across the UK and Ireland, and abroad for much of the year, to Australia, Japan and the USA etc, as well as working nearer home with those on the edges of church life. But he dislikes ‘celebrity-style’ events and the general move from participation to performance. He has addressed the (British) Hymn Society and led sessions at Greenbelt; he was Convenor of the editorial group for the Ch of Scotland’s Common Ground Hymn Supplement of 1998 (for which he also compiled a companion booklet), and the major Church Hymnary 4th Edn (2005) which features some 60 of his texts and versions and nearly 100 tunes and arrangements. These include several of the ‘Short Songs’ which comprise the book’s penultimate section (preceding the Doxologies), comparable with those in HTC and CH2004 but in source more international and in style more liturgical. 22 of his texts are in Sing Glory (1999); 32 including single-stz texts in >i>Sing Praise (2010), and several others in the Methodist Singing the Faith planned for 2011. His newer compilation God Comes Tomorrow (book and disc) comprises ‘20 familiar and unusual Advent and Christmas resources’ which he has selected. Committed to a simple lifestyle and the quest for peace, he is a frequent radio broadcaster; the Irish bishop and hymnal editor Edward Darling said in 2006 that in reflecting a national folk culture, ‘John Bell has done for hymnody in Scotland what Vaughan Williams did [in EH] for hymnody in England’. Text nos.576, 910, 948; tune nos.428, 948, 1260.