One of the worship songs in Greystone’s July 26 online worship service, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” may not be familiar to some hearers. However, this text was penned by a very well-known writer of Christian songs, Fanny Jane Crosby (1820-1915). Ms. Crosby is regarded as one of America’s most important gospel song lyricists. “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” “Jesus Is Calling,” “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” “Praise Him! Praise Him!,” “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It,” “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” and “To God Be the Glory” were all written by Crosby. In fact, during her 95 years on earth, Fanny Crosby penned between 8500 and 9000 texts, and while this volume of work is amazing by any standard, it is even more so given her humble beginnings and physical challenges.
Crosby was born to a humble family in Southeast, New York, in March of 1820, and as an infant, she was blinded when a country doctor put hot compresses on her inflamed eyes. Crosby received her education from the New York City School for the Blind, and after her graduation, she taught at this school from 1847-1858. In, 1858, she married Alexander van Alstyne, who also was blind and was a highly respected music teacher at the school.
Crosby first wrote lyrics for minstrel songs and secular cantatas prior to becoming a successful sacred lyricist. It was not until she was 44 years old that Crosby began to write sacred texts. It is reported that before she wrote each of her hymns, she knelt and prayed for God’s guidance in her writing. The tunes for her hymns were composed by some of the most popular gospel music composers of her time.
Fanny Crosby spent the majority of her life in New York City, where she attended St. John’s Methodist Episcopal Church. She lived her final years in the Fanny Crosby Memorial Home for the Aged in Bridgeport Connecticut.
Interim Associate Minister of Music
Resources for this article: Handbook to The Baptist Hymnal, 1992, Convention Press; 101 Hymn Stories, 1982, Kregel Publications; Hymns of Our Faith, 1964, Broadman Press.