“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Gets a New Refrain

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a classic hymn believers have been singing for almost 100 years.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t get a new chorus.
The band One Sonic Society, comprised of producers and songwriters Paul Mabury and Jason Ingram, have added a new chorus without totally doing away with the old one, giving us yet another reason to sing this spectacular hymn.

Why the change?

We’re big proponents of the old mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which is often applied to time-tested hymns like “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
But this song is an exception.
For one, not much has changed. The original verse lyrics and melody have stayed intact, and the original refrain is repurposed as a tag.
But second, the new chorus—a move not uncommon in hymnody—adds a nice new dimension to the song.
Altogether, this version retains the well-known beauty of the original melody and lyrics while complementing it with a more contemporary chorus, without pushing the envelope too far.

Evaluating the new chorus

The new chorus is extremely simple and singable. It stays within the range of a fourth and is situated about an octave higher than the verse. From the lowest note of the verse to the highest of the chorus, the range is an octave plus a fourth.
Lyrically, the chorus borrows the central theme of the song in lines two and four, where lines one and three summarize the thrust of the verses:

Beginning to end—my life in Your hands
Great, great is Your Faithfulness
You never let go—this one thing I know
Great, great is Your Faithfulness

Interestingly, this version retains the “hand” imagery of the original. The focus shifts from mercy and provision to preservation and protection. Compare with the original refrain, which appears in this rendition as a tag:

Great is Thy Faithfulness
Great is Thy Faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand has provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord, unto me

So though thematically distinct, the two choruses are related. In that way, this rendition honors the original while layering on other themes that resonate with God’s faithfulness. Many times, when old hymns are given new choruses, their refrains are cast aside—both thematically and actually. We appreciate how this version pays homage to the original by employing it as a tag and honoring its themes in the new chorus.

Tips for leading

Sometimes changing up a familiar song can be jarring to a congregation. A really great way to help introduce this song is to simply have the One Sonic Society version of it playing either before or after the service for the few weeks leading up to when you lead it. That way your congregation will start to hear the new version and become more comfortable with it, which will help everyone latch onto it.
As far as new songs go, this one is easy to teach because only one section of it is actually new. Teaching the new chorus first when introducing the song can be a great way for a congregation to get familiar with it. You might also discuss the merits of the new themes the chorus introduces, as a way to justify the change. (After all, the original is quite beloved. The burden of proof lays on you, the leader!)
Conclusion
If you love “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” you’ll find the new chorus to be a fitting complement to the old hymn.  It’s simple enough to where it flows seamlessly with the verses, and its melody is in a higher register, creating opportunity to really shout out God’s faithfulness.
Praise God that one thing we know for sure is from beginning to end, our lives are in his hands! Great is His Faithfulness!
Listen here.
This is a guest post by music professionals Cody Norris and Stephen Folden. Photo by Carsten Stalljohann on Unsplash

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Written by
Matthew Boffey

Matthew Boffey (MDiv, Trinity International University) is the pastor of worship at Christ Church Bellingham. He is also editor-in-chief of Ministry Team magazine, has edited several books, and has written for several blogs and publications, including Relevant online, the Logos blog, and the Faithlife blog.

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Written by Matthew Boffey