Behind the Hymn Sunday: Send the Light
Send the Light was written by Charles H. Gabriel.
Charles Hutchinson Gabriel was born August 18, 1856 in Wilton Iowa and raised on a farm.
As a boy, Gabriel taught himself to play a small reed organ. He was following in his father’s footsteps and leading singing schools by the age of 16.
One folklore of his youth, is that his pastor at First Presbyterian Church, shared his sermon topic and asked Gabriel if he knew of a song to go with it. By that Sunday, the young man had written him a song to accompany the sermon.
He is also believed to have written the hymn, “How Can It Be,” as a young and published under one of his pseudonyms, Charles H. Marsh.
Gabriel was twice married, producing a child in each marriage. His first marriage resulted in a divorce, which was very uncommon in that day and time.
Gabriel edited numerous songs, school song books and cantatas throughout his lifetime.
In 1890, he was called to Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, in San Francisco, CA as music director. While serving this church he wrote Send the Light, when the Sunday School superintendent asked for a missionary hymn for Easter Sunday to highlight Golden Offering.
The hymn was first sung on March 6, 1890 with great enthusiasm. A visiting missionary heard the song and loved it so much that he carried it back east with him. The hymn became immediately popular.
The text is believed to be based on Acts 16, when Paul has the vision of the Man of Macedonia asking for help and to Please, send the light.
Matthew 5, says “you are the light of the world” and we are to invest in others.
This song about world evangelism was first published in Gabriel’s 1891 edition of Scripture songs. The copyright was owned by E. O. Excell.
In 1912, he moved to Chicago, IL and began working with Homer Rodeheaver’s publishing company. From then on he supported himself writing hymns. He is known to have written over 7,000 hymns, including His Eye on Sparrow, I stand Amazed in the Presence, The Way of the Cross, Higher Ground. He wrote under various pseudonyms, including Charlotte G. Homer.
Homer A. Rodeheaver, Gabriel’s boss, was the music director for revival evangelist Billy Sunday and used many of Gabriel’s songs in the evangelist campaigns. This brought great fame and success for Gabriel and allowed him to support himself as a composer.
Gabriel wrote his autobiography titled, Sixty Years of Gospel Song.
On September 14, 1932, Charles H. Gabirel died in Hollywood, CA.