This day we have witnessed (At the death of Nelson Mandela) (website only)

This day we have witnessed a man for all nations,
a man who was human, held fast what is right,
for this he would live with profound resignation,
he shone in the world, don’t extinguish that light.

And we who are human stand now in remembrance,
frail shadows of all he has shown we can be.
Stand fast in this moment and cherish the values
for which he once suffered that we might be free.

The man we remember has died, will be buried,
yet while we seek justice his theme will not fall
His spirit is living, will not be extinguished,
the love he embodied is always for all.

Words: Andrew Pratt (born 1948) © 5 December 2013 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England,
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.


Suggested tune: “The road and the miles to Dundee” (StF 604)

Mandela in his office 1952 - the first black legal practice in Johannesburg, South Africa.

More information

How do we remember a man like Nelson Mandela in our worship? He is a man who has been widely loved and is regarded as the father of modern South Africa. He has been the face of opposition (perhaps also with Archbishop Desmond Tutu) to the apartheid regime in that country. But in the past, his politics and methods have also divided international opinion.

Can we sing of a man like Mandela within the context of Christian worship? For minister, theologian and hymn writer Andrew Pratt, the answer is a firm yes. Andrew’s words tread a fine line between expressing faith and expressing values inspired by Mandela’s journey and commitment. However, for the Christian singer, this text is clearly more than a eulogy. The implications are very clear – that Mandela was a man who lived a Christ-echoing life: there are parallels with what we would wish to say about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

No one would wish to say that Nelson Mandela has been a modern-day Jesus. But his life has been prophetic and, if we seek those whose lives have expressed what Jesus might wish to do and say in the modern world, we could do worse than remember a man whose words and actions insisted that we are all made in the image of God. It’s a belief that makes demands on us as Christians, as it did on Mandela himself.

About Nelson Mandela

Biographical and other information about Nelson Mandela is available from The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.

The BBC history page has a helpful account of Mandela’s life and the context in which he lived.

For a sometimes disturbing visual timeline history of apartheid in South Africa, go to the Huffington Post.

Categories:, Hymns only online (submit to, Pratt, Andrew, The road and miles....

5 Responses to This day we have witnessed (At the death of Nelson Mandela) (website only)

  1. David Booth says:

    This is a song we shall sing once – on Sunday. I don’t suppose it will make it into books but like most popular songs it is loved for a short time and as such is valid and useful. Worhip is aimed at God but centred in the world of the here and now – it fits beautifully.

  2. George Ginn says:

    This hymn/song call it what you will reflects all that we know about Jesus. Mandela lived out the Christian faith in his forgivness and reconciliation. This is the only way that we can acheive any kind of peace. We have leaders that speak bold words but are not leading us along the road to peace but helping us to preserve the hostility. We could do with a Nelson Mandela in all those places where there is division, Jews and Palistine is but one example. We need leaders to speak the truth in love and live in the light of Jesus. George Ginn

  3. I’ve said on the UK Methodists page of Facebook that I don’t think this should be called a hymn. It doesn’t address God. It is a song. And the line, ‘His spirit is living, will not be extinguished’ doesn’t really reflect the Christian eschatological hope of resurrection, it sounds more like popular folk sentiments about life after death. I admired Mandela greatly and this has its place as a song, but I could not use this as worship material.

    • Editor says:

      Hi Dave – thanks for your comments. As I noted in my own comments on this hymn, Andrew Pratt has here negotiated a fine line between “hymn” and “song”. I can understand why you feel the text errs on the side of “song”. We felt that it was an honest contribution to our thinking today and hope that it may contain challenges that will be value for its readers and/or singers.

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