Our choir sang the hymn, Near to the Heart of God, recently and I decided to look up the story of its’ composition.
Dr. Cleland McAfee (1866-1944), was a Presbyterian minister, who served for many years on the faculty of Park College, a church-related school. He also pastored a number of churches.
Tragedy struck the McAfee family in 1903 when two of his brother’s infant daughters succumbed to diphtheria—dying within 24 hours of each other. This double bereavement touched Dr. McAfee’s heart. People were unable to visit and express their sympathy as the house was quarantined.
As Dr. McAfee prayed for God to give him the right words to help his brother and his brother’s wife he felt inspired to write this hymn. He taught the song to his choir, and they stood outside his brother’s house to sing it. The choir also sang it during the regular worship hour on the following Sunday. It’s still comforting today to anyone experiencing loss.