Born in the night, Mary’s child
Source: Singing the Faith: 193
Words: Geoffrey Ainger
Music: “Born in the night (May’s child)” by Geoffrey Ainger
Geoffrey Ainger wrote “Born in the night, Mary’s Child” in 1959, while minister at Loughton Methodist Church in Essex.
Interviewed as part of BBC Radio Essex’s carol service from Loughton Methodist Church in 1995, Geoffrey explained that the carol had been written incidentally to a church play for teenagers, which sought to set the nativity in a modern context. Accordingly, Joe and Mary, an unmarried couple who have arrived from London late at night one Christmas Eve at Loughton Station, being unable to find accommodation in Loughton, use a room in Brown’s Garage, where she gives birth. The shepherds are bus conductresses and the Three Wise Men, off-duty east-end social workers.
The carol was one of two composed for the play, the other being “Men from the East came to Mary”, which were originally performed by teenagers with very loud guitar accompaniment.
Geoffrey Ainger is an Essex man, born at Mistley in 1925. He was educated at Brackendale School, Norwich; Richmond College, London; and Union Theological Seminary, New York. He has held various posts as a Methodist minister and lecturer, including his four years as minister in Loughton (1958–62). His desire to emphasise the modern relevance of the Jesus story is also seen in his publication “Jesus Our Contemporary” (1967).
From 1962 to 1971, Geoffrey was a member of a group ministry at Notting Hill, where “Born in the night” was first published in “Songs from Notting Hill” (1964), a collection of songs by the Notting Hill Music Group, which was based at the Methodist Church there.
(Adapted from Chris Pond, “Loughton Hymns”, Loughton and District Historical Society Newsletter 169, March/April 2006. Reproduced with permission.)