We are marching in the light of God

Image on a t-shirt made in Zimbabwe and supplied through the
Diocese of Southwark as part of a Diocesan twinning scheme

Today’s song from Sing Praise is one that has achieved widespread popularity across the denominations: “We are marching in the light of God”, attributed to Anders Nyberg as an adaptation of a Xhosa traditional hymn.  It’s really a simple chant, the original words translated as the title.  It’s described variously elsewhere as “a protest song from South Africa sung by those protesting against apartheid” or as “a Zulu folk song written down by Andries Van Tonder in 1952, translated into English around 1984”.  The meaning of ‘Siyahamba’ is also interpreted differently – does it mean ‘marching’ with military overtones, or simply ‘walking’ with a purpose?

Whatever the origins of the chant, or its use as a protest song in its country of origin, it’s now used widely to add a hint of the international Church to ecumenical gatherings or local acts of worship.  Verses are often added – “living in the love of God”, “moving in the power of God”, “dancing in the joy of God” etc. Perhaps the point is that the Holy Spirit not only brings us the light of God but moves us to respond joyfully to it in both literal and figurative movement, and to do so together with our brothers and sisters locally and across the world. 

1 thought on “We are marching in the light of God”

  1. The congregation of St Luke’s Eccleshill think that when I insist on adding the original language verse “Siyahamba Kukanyeni Kwenkos” I am just being awkward, but seeing as this is the number one favourite hymn of Christians across the world, I feel that the least I can do is to teach them the words so they can join in if they are ever part of a large gathering which sings it.

    As I said earlier, in English we prolong the song and heighten the mood by adding verses with varying words, whereas we ought probably to take the plunge and improvise on harmonies and rhythms in the African style. Whatever, this is a moving song!

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