Appalachia Music

Lord I’m Coming Home

Appalachia Homeplace

Lord I’m Coming Home was written by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921). Kirkpatrick was born in Pennsylvania. His mother was a school teacher and his father was a musician. Kirkpatrick was musically trained from an early age and eventually studied music in Philadelphia. By 1859 Kirkpatrick had published a collection of hymns.

According to Wikipedia:

“In 1861, William Kirkpatrick married his first wife. Not long after the marriage, he enlisted in the 91st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers as a Fife-Major. This lasted until October 1862, when under general orders, the position was terminated. He returned to Philadelphia and supported his wife by working in carpentry. Over the next 11 years, Kirkpatrick was elected lead organist for the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church, studied the pipe organ, continued in vocal lessons, and began publishing more and more hymns. It was also during this time that he was introduced to John R. Sweeney. They soon became partners in their musical careers. The death of Kirkpatrick’s wife in 1878 acted as a catalyst in his life to give up the trade and devote himself fully to music and composition.

Between 1880 and 1897, Sweeney and Kirkpatrick published 49 major books. It was also during this time that Kirkpatrick was given command over all of the music at Grace Methodist Episcopal church. He married again in 1893 and became a world traveler with his wife. Over the years he published close to 100 major works and many annual works such as anthems for Easter, Christmas, and children’s choirs.

Kirkpatrick participated in many of the Camp meetings the Methodist churches held. He often led the music portion of the meeting and enlisted the help of soloists and other musicians to perform for the attenders. During one of these meetings, he became saddened by his observation of the soloist, who would perform the required songs and then leave without staying to hear the preacher. William feared that this young man did not really know Christ and so he began to pray that God would somehow get a hold of the soloist’s heart. One evening while he was praying, a song began to form in his mind. He quickly jotted down the lyrics and asked the soloist to sing the song that night. The lyrics of the song convicted the young man’s heart and he ended up staying and listening to the message. The lyrics that so touched this young man, and many people since, are: “I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home; The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home. Coming home, coming home, Nevermore to roam; Open now Thine arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.” The song, Lord, I’m Coming Home, was based on the story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.”

Interesting for me to discover the song was written for an altar call, since that’s where I’ve most often heard the song performed. Give Pap and Paul’s version a listen.

This is the first song we’ve videoed since Pap’s accident. You’ll notice our usual video venue has changed. Hopefully by the next time we video Pap will be up to meeting us at Paul’s again.


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  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    August 1, 2015 at 10:38 am

    That song compels you to hear the “call”. Pap sings out strong and sure – like he’s thankful for God’s blessings.

    • Reply
      Sue McIntyre
      May 30, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      This post comes long after the “Coming Home” video featuring Paul and Pap in 2015, and long before I started following this blog. The love that is shared between the two of them, brought me to tears. I am not sure of the circumstances behind the recording, but I am sure it is something very special. Please keep on sharing them…
      Thanks, Sue

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    So good to hear Pap and Paul singing and playing together again!
    This song is new to me – does that make me a “bad” Methodist?
    I’m going to suggest that our little “band” takes up this lovely gospel song. Thanks for putting me onto it.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Ed-Pap doesn’t use a pick because he can’t hold onto it either! He used to play with a pick but as he got older he said it got to where he couldn’t even feel it in his fingers anymore so he quit using one all together. So glad you liked the song!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 9:28 am

    A hymn from my childhood. I still remembered the first verse and the refrain. I’m happy to see and hear Pap!I liked the venue because it was cozy and homey.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 5:58 am

    Good songs are written to connect with someone verbally, and I believe some songs are written with inspiration from above, (unlike most songs today). Good songs are never boring to hear, even if you hear them often, (unlike most songs today). You can hear the conviction in this song, whither now or in the past we’ve all been there.. Good to see and hear Pap and Paul together again, the song was nicely done..

  • Reply
    Mel H.
    July 27, 2015 at 1:36 am

    Mighty fine, mighty fine…

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    July 26, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Wonderful song. Always interesting to hear how people come to know God and find their way to Him; sometimes it seems it’s a mighty revelation won all in one swoop, other times it’s bits and pieces heard over a period of time that suddenly gels all they’ve heard before into one that opens the gate of their heart and mind to Him. Whatever it takes, it’s God’s business and He knows what He’s doing. Our only responsibility is to speak His Word in love when He inspires us to, because we never know what word we share in love will be the one that leads them home to Him.
    Good to see Pap up and about. Continuing in prayer for his complete mending.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Grandma Cate
    July 26, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Mom loved this hymn, said she learned it singing with her folks in eastern KY & in Roanoke. The chorus melody appears as theme in slow movement of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. Story goes he heard it sung on a visit to US & liked it so well that he used it. The version here is lovely & very special. But the quiet sounds of an orchestra in a hushed auditorium softly playing “going home” always raises goose bumps & brings happy tears.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    July 26, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Great performance and an ‘old tune’ we so often heard in the Hayesville Church of God. Interesting to know the origin!
    Just got back from a “Fiddler” book signing up at the ‘Tomato Festival’ in Grainger County. Almost sold as many copies of “Fiddler of the Mountains” as I did on the Square! I even sold a copy to a fellow from NEW YORK CITY. BUT when I told him the book was set in Clay County, NC, he said “Oh, my folks had a summer house on Lake Chatuge!” Well I just about flipped out!” I said, “Are you sure it was Lake Chatuge?”
    He thought I HAD A PROBLEM but finally convinced me it was Lake Chatuge where he had spent many summers!
    Guess that beats NYCity!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    James Pease
    July 26, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    What a wonderful thing to come from Church and find! As if I needed proof that our prayers are answered. Thank you God for bringing Pap back to us!
    with love from your brother jim

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    It is amazing how music can comfort and sustain us. So glad that Pap has had his music to fill him with strength and love as he as been healing. This video show that he is as good as ever. Enjoy it Pap!

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Pap and Paul sound great as usual. Great to see and hear Pap performing again!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    July 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    What a wonderful old song. I remember it from the altar calls of my youth. Pap sounds absolutely wonderful. I’m so glad to hear them playing again!!

  • Reply
    Phyllis S
    July 26, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Lovely song and beautiful harmony
    as always. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 26, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I like to know the story of gospel songs. Both the song and its story are instructive. For those who think God doesn’t work in the lives of individuals how do they explain gospel songs and their endurance ? This one has been around for a hundred years or more and remains a favorite. And once again it taps into that indefineable something that is ‘home’ a place where our spirit finds rest.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Very nice song and lovely performance. This one had somehow eluded me. I’ll have to learn it and sing it in church next Sunday. Thanks!

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Wonderful to see Pap looking so good and to hear his sweet melodious voice again. Thanks

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 26, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I first listened to this several days ago on the “tube.” It was such a relief to hear Pap singing again.
    I’ve noticed Pap isn’t using a pick. I thought I saw that in other videos but in this one it is obvious. I am asking because I don’t use a pick either. That’s because I can’t hold on to it. It either turns or I drop it. If I concentrate on holding the pick, I can’t make the chords. As good a musician as Pap is there has to be a reason he don’t use a pick.
    Is he left handed?
    PS: Tell Paul I’m loving his runs in this song.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    They sing it so beautiful, love the lyricks.
    glad Pap is doing good.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I can’t tell y’all how happy I am to see and hear Pap singing again! Keep on keepin’ on.
    Oh. ‘Twas a beautiful song…

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    July 26, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Very beautiful! Better than before.
    Thanks, that did me good this AM. I’m getting depressed with my leg in this cam boot stuck up and trying not to walk on it so that it will heal faster.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    July 26, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Oh my !!! the fall must have shook Paps vocal cords , for he sounds better than before … if that is possible .
    Love that song and they did a great job .

  • Reply
    Bea Bland
    July 26, 2015 at 9:43 am

    This is so wonderful. Thank you for the article and the song.
    B Bland

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 8:59 am

    I love that song! What makes it even more beautiful is to hear Pap sing it and know he must be feeling better. The accident didn’t hurt his voice one bit!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 26, 2015 at 8:19 am

    A fine job, and it’s even finer to see and hear Pap making music again.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 26, 2015 at 7:18 am

    That’s beautiful, Tip. I noticed immediately that it wasn’t the usual venue. I’m so happy to see and hear Pap!

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