This Is My Father’s World

Something to listen to while you read…sheet music available at Sheet Music Plus.

Tune Name: Terra Beata (a.k.a. Terra Patris)

Sometimes friends are the best legacy.

As a student at Syracuse University, Maltie D. Babcock (1858-1901) was a top scholar, an outstanding athlete, and a gifted musician as well as an avid fisherman. But when Babcock realized his true calling was the ministry, he completed studies at Auburn Theological Seminary and became a Presbyterian minister. While serving as pastor in Lockport, New York, Babcock would often take hikes outside of town telling his wife he was “going out to see the Father’s world.”

Babcock, who was known for using colorful metaphors in his preaching, enjoyed writing poetry and contributed several texts to the Presbyterian School Hymnal (1899). After his untimely death on a trip to the Holy Land, his wife published a compilation of his writings, Thoughts for Every-Day Living, which included a sixteen stanza poem My Father’s World.

Five years later, Franklin L. Sheppard, a church musician and one of Babcock’s close friends, set My Father’s World to music and added it to the Presbyterian songbook he was editing, Alleluia. Using an English folk tune his mother sang to him as a child, Terra Beata (Latin for “beautiful world”), Sheppard arranged the hymn but chose not to call attention to himself in the publication. He signed the hymn using his initials rearranged as “S.F.L.” and instead credited his friend – giving Babcock a lasting legacy that continues today in modern hymnals.

This time of year, homecoming and harvest celebrations offer abundant opportunities to connect (or reconnect) with friends and family. But along with the gifts of human relationships, this season treats us to riotous autumn colors reminding us of the relationship we share with our Creator. A portion of Babcock’s original poem – not found in most hymnals – captures it best:

In a bush ablaze,
To my wondering gaze,
God makes his glory known.


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