As part of being listed on the Cyber Hymnal web site, I was asked to provide a more complete personal history."All that I am, and all that I'll be, draws from the life You give me" as our song goes (Center Of My Soul), so with that in mind, I share with you the ways God has led me thus far...
Ralph's dad's ancestors sailed from England to Dorchester MA and Connecticut early in the 1600's. Many were farmers around Plainfield VT.
Ralph's mom's ancestors sailed to Boston 1887-1895 (some on the "SS Scythia") fleeing the Irish Potato Famine. They were told "you can pick up gold in between the cobblestones in the streets of Boston". They settled in Brookline MA
Some of the clan, Mansfield MA (circa 1943)
My wife's dad's ancestors are mentioned in Massachusetts town records back to the 1600's. Several were coal miners, hat makers and farmers in Mansfield and Norton MA.
My wife's mom's ancestors also arrived from England in the early 1600's and 1800's. One traveled with Roger Williams when he started Rhode Island. In the 1800's one was a state senator. Her great-grandfather has named after Abraham Lincoln.
Some in our family tree came over on the Mayflower. Others answered Paul Revere's call to Lexington at the start of the Revolutionary War. One was wounded in the Civil War. Several served WWI, WWII and Vietnam. Two grandparents eloped and married in New York City. One drove an oxen train across the West, then panned for gold in California. In later years, he was a shoemaker. We still have his cobblers bench!
A few were pastors, missionaries or started churches. One relative was kicked by a cow and owned a covered bridge; another had his face sawn off in a lumber mill accident (yuck!),one died in a plane crash off of Cape Cod. One earned two black belts in karate. Many had less glorious stories... farming, business, raising families.
I was born in Barre Vermont in 1957, where my parents and grandparents owned a summer snack bar in Plainfield VT called "Merribobs". My mother told me years later that I was "unplanned but not unwanted".
I grew up in Mansfield MA where my father was a clerk at the Post Office for many years and my mother was a school nurse. My two brothers completed the family.
I remember singing "Away In The Manger" at age six, imagining at that time what it would be like to have my name in the composer index of the hymnal! I wrote my first silly love song in fourth or fifth grade.
While attending Mansfield High School, I learned guitar, listened to the Beatles, became active in band & chorus, and even tried football (just to prove my manhood... I'm not convinced that I did!). I also wrote a number of secular folk songs and shared them with friends, a practice which continued throughout high school and college.
I started dating the girl who was to become my wife in May 1974, and through her influence and that of the saints at First Christian Church (West Mansfield village)became a Christian in April 1975.
In the winter of 1974, our high school choir recorded and performed my "Christmas Round"; the following year, I created my first collection of songs ("18 Years")
High School graduation photo Spring 1975
At Westfield State College (as a Music Composition major), I was discipled by David Stewart and Greg Hession, two of the leaders of the local ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Upon Greg's graduation, I was elected student president of that movement. During my college years, I wrote a number of songs and shared them at local coffeehouses and churches. I also played baritone horn in the Symphonic Wind Philharmonica, traveling to the Bahamas, Washington DC and around the Northeast to give concerts. My music teachers included Dr. Peter J. Demos, Dr. Catherine Dower-Gold and Dr. Kenneth Manzer
Ralph, singing at the Westfield State College "Owl's Nest" Coffeehouse, September 1977
Upon graduation from college, I married my wife in 1979 (after dating 5 years). Following a three day honeymoon in New Hampshire, we left for Campus Crusade for Christ staff training in Fort Collins, CO! After training, we raised our financial support for 9 months, then drove across country to our assignment at Arrowhead Springs.
We served with Campus Crusade 1979 - 1983 at their International Headquarters in San Bernardino, CA (Mass Media & International School of Theology, Computer & Personnel Departments). During those years, we had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of such gifted saints as Bill Bright, Vonette Bright, Josh McDowell, Steve Douglass, Walter Kaiser, J. Edwin Orr, Win Arn, Dennis Rainey, Earl Radmacher, Major Ian Thomas, Larry Burkett... One night, we even had the chance to show the "Jesus Film" to Brother Andrew!
We were active in Grace Baptist Church (San Bernardino CA) and became friends with their pastor, Dr. Gary MacIntosh, who now travels the country as author and Church Growth speaker.
As part of my role with the International School Of Theology, I spent time with staff & students, including Ron Jenson, Klaus Issler, & J.P. Moreland.
Feeling called of the Lord to return to New England, we loaded up our personal belongings and infant daughter in a rented U-Haul and began the trip east to Massachusetts.
Through the years, we've experienced hail (the size of baseballs!), survived the 1980 "Panorama" firestorm that swept down the foothills of San Bernardino (just blocks from our apartment), got lost in the desert of Joshua Tree National Park, rode out New England blizzards (1978 & 2001), three California earthquakes and several hurricanes (including Bob and Gloria). "Through the droughts and through the rains, You are faithful still the same, my Provider and my Friend" (from "Yours Is The Day")
Since 1983, I have served as Business Manager with Crossroads in Sudbury MA, an interdenominational Christian ministry teaching principals of intimacy and grace through weekly Bible Studies and periodic seminars. I've also been part of their Board of Directors since 1985.
From 1983-1986, we were involved with the First Congregational Church (Hopkinton MA). Rev. Richard Germaine, a gifted preacher and teacher, faithfully served as pastor there for many years; he recently founded Barnabas Ministries, a mentoring ministry for pastors.
In 1986, we and several other families were sent out by that church to plant a new congregation.
This new church (New Hope Chapel in Westboro MA) continues today under the leadership of Pastor Steve Misarski, bearing fruit in large and small ways, trying to be faithful in His service.
In 1990, I started folding my choruses into Sunday morning worship. The pastor and elders of New Hope Chapel encouraged me to develop and expand this songwriting ministry. Thus began New Hope Publications (later renamed New Hope Music).
Over three million have visited the New Hope Music web site. Our songs have traveled to over 210 countries and been translated into dozens of languages. We've written 1300 Scripture-based songs, more than thirty have seen use in public worship services, and over 100 are listed with Christian Copyright Licensing International. CCLI also includes several of our songs in their SongSelect software.
As New Hope Music travels through our second decade of ministry, new arrangements, translations & recordings are being made of our songs. The web site is rapidly expanding and requests for our music continue to come in from around the world!
God has been so faithful to us. Lord willing, we believe that the best is yet to come...
- Ralph Merrifield