The touching Swede baptismal lullaby
If you were 23 years young and on a boat trip with your father you witnessed him drown before your eyes, would you still be able to write a song? Swede hymn-writer Caroline Sandell-Berg experienced this and in spite of her pain, Berg wrote “Day By Day”, the song she is most famous for among the English-speaking population. Berg is also the writer of “Children of The Heavenly Father” (1850). Berg’s father was a Lutheran pastor who encouraged Berg to write and publish hymns in her early childhood. Two thousand hymns were Berg’s total contribution, some did not bear her name for she wasn’t after glory of any sort.
For her excellence in writing Scandinavian hymns, Berg became Sweden’s first successful head of a publishing house. Her intent in writing for “Children of The Heavenly Father” had been misconstrued early on as a hymn referring to little ones or children. However, the more accurate reading of her poem should be, her reference to the safety in numbers of God’s faithful. Everyone is a child of God, regardless of age. Berg added to her poem a traditional Swedish melody.
Berg lived amidst revolutionary and turbulent times in Sweden when agriculture was giving way to industrialism, rocking Swedish society down to its core. Her hymns were popularized through the revival evangelist services of Carl Rosenius. Many of Berg’s hymns gained more popularity via musical arrangements of the gospel singer Oskar Ahnfelt and these went on to be published in Andelinga Sander (1850), a collection of Ahnfelt’s music which was published by the generous patronage of Sweden’s famous soprano Jenny Lind. This is how Scandinavian Christians managed to have a rich heritage of folk and congregational music. The English translation of “Children of The Heavenly Father” (1925) was carried out by Swedish Ernst William Olson, who lived in the US. Today, “Children of The Heavenly Father” is a tender baptism song in contemporary Sweden, practically every baptism takes place with this hymn performed.