The likelihood that a virtuoso classical and jazz pianist and educator and an Irish retired financial administrator would collaborate to create a beautiful song about the temple seems almost improbable. However, that is exactly what happened when John Connolly and Samuel Petchey got together.
Connolly served in leadership for three years in the Preston England Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as “the Mormon Church”). Petchey’s mother, Eileen, also served in the Preston England Temple.
Samuel Petchey is an internationally performing jazz pianist and saxophonist. He has performed regularly at Buckingham Palace for state banquets and investitures hosted by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
While serving in the Preston England Temple, John Connolly would write poems to express his deepest feelings about the sacred edifice. When he mentioned his temple poems to Petchey’s mother, she suggested that her son could set one of them to music.
In 2019, Connolly and Petchey met at a concert sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as “the Mormon Church”) in Dublin, Ireland. Within a few days, Connolly’s poem was set to music. Connolly recalls, “It all came about through a lovely bit of serendipity. I have only met Sam Petchey once in my entire life.”
Church Newsroom United Kingdom describes the hymn, which is titled “Where Heaven Meets Earth,” as “a melody of contemplative and lightsome simplicity. A baseline that charts an upward course. Poetically penned words to hallow sacred space.” The first two lines of the new hymn are: “Where heaven meets earth, where God is near, His tender mercies often appear. His temple space, so calm so mild, a place where we feel the faith of a child.”
Thus, the song is a “testimony of how the Savior helps us return to the Father again, and how through Him, relationships with family can continue in celestial glory.” Petchey commented, “What I love about ‘Where Heaven Meets Earth’ is the clear connection it makes between us, the temple, and Christ. Sometimes, when we sing or talk about the temple, the emphasis on eternal families can lose sight of whom the temple represents.”
Connolly thinks the hymn might be a bit short for congregational singing but, could perhaps have a future at temple dedications. Petchey added, “I am continuing to compose and share spiritual messages and music, to help share the Gospel and strengthen friends during lock-down.”
John Connolly is a native of Belfast, Ireland. He and his wife Eileen have six adult children and 17 grandchildren – enough to form a small choir for various occasions.