2024 Hymn Competition

Our Judging Panel

Michael Baughen

Michael Baughen was born in 1930 and started his piano studies during the Second World war.  His early musical training also included being a chorister.  He was ordained in 1956 and quickly realised that there was a need for new Christian youth songs and hymns.  In 1960 he led a pioneering group that produced the popular volume “Youth Praise”.  This was so successful worldwide that it was swiftly followed by “Youth Praise 2”, “Psalm Praise” and “Hymns for Today’s Church”.  Michael started composing and authoring in 1960 and since then has contributed many hymns and songs to various publications.  His most famous tune is LORD OF THE YEARS which is married to Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn of the same name.  ​​​​​​​

Jan Berry

Jan Berry is a feminist theologian and writer, offering a ministry of spiritual accompaniment, and leading quiet days and retreats.  She is a retired minister of the United Reformed Church, who was involved in theological education for 20 years at Luther King Centre in Manchester.   She is one of the editors (along with Andrew Pratt)  of  Hymns of Hope and Healing (published by Stainer and Bell.   She has published a collection of her own hymns prayers, and poems in her book Naming God, as much of her writing has been included in various anthologies produced by the Iona Community.  ​​​​​​​

Polly Falconer

Polly Falconer is a priest of the Church of England with a lively interest in hymnody. As a popular presenter at conferences such as the Hymn Society, her research reflects both distinctive styles of music for worship and their social contexts. She is UKME Development Enabler in the Diocese of Oxford, where she works to encourage cultural diversity among clergy and laity. With over 30 years' experience in the health sector, she has led mental health training at The Afiya Trust, and has worked extensively with the underrepresented, including the Gypsy and Traveller communities.  

Bernadette Farrell

Bernadette Farrell is a well-known liturgist, composer and hymnwriter whose work is known and loved around the world. Her songs and hymns cross boundaries and appear in the hymnals of many Christian traditions. During the pandemic, ‘Christ, Be Our Light’ was the most downloaded hymn in Europe among the Protestant Churches. Alongside Directing Music in churches large and small, she has been a Seminary Lecturer, Editor and Worship and Music Adviser to UK Dioceses. She is also one of the most experienced Community Organisers in Europe, building inter-racial alliances and leading successful campaigns over many years. She was the first Deputy-Director of Citizens UK. 

Thomas Hewitt Jones

Thomas Hewitt Jones is an award-winning composer of contemporary classical and commercial music. Since winning the BBC Young Composer Competition in his teens, his music has been published by many of the major music publishers and is frequently heard in concert and on radio, TV and in the cinema. From choral classics to cantatas, concertos and symphonies, he is also well-known for 'Funny Song' which went megaviral on Tiktok in 2022 (now number 3 in the world).

Michael N. Jagessar

Michael N. Jagessar is  a retired minister of the United Reformed Church who researches and writes across theological disciplines. Michael, who hails from Guyana, locates himself as a Caribbean diasporan traveller, who, while located in the UK,  writes, thinks and engages from where he _dwells _– that is, Guyana and the Caribbean. Before retiring, Michael's work included local church ministry, developing multicultural/intercultural ministries, working in theological education, and  as a  Mission Secretary with the Council for World Mission (CWM). More on Michael’s writings can be found at https://caribleaper.co.uk/publications/

Iain McLarty

Iain McLarty is a worship development worker for the Church of Scotland and a freelance choir and orchestra conductor. He is co-editor of a new Hymnary Supplement for the Church of Scotland to be launched in 2024 and directed the latest album for the Iona Community's Wild Goose Resource Group ("This is God's world"). He is regularly involved in planning and leading worship at national and international events, including the World Council of Churches Assembly in Germany in 2022 and the World Mission Conference in Tanzania in 2018. He works regularly for Trinity College at Glasgow University, delivering training for both ministry candidates and lay people and writing a weekly lectionary based blog called "Songs for Sunday".

Iain studied Mathematics and Music at the University of Edinburgh followed by a Masters in Musicology with his research focusing on classical and church music in Scotland. Following this he studied conducting in the Soloist Class at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, conducting many of the professional Danish orchestras. He is Musical Director of the Scottish Chamber Choir and St Andrews Symphony Orchestra and a regular guest conductor with many choirs and orchestras around Scotland.

Anne Sardeson

Anne Sardeson is a minister in the URC on the coast in East Essex where she serves 3 churches and also works across The Eastern Synod of the URC. Before that she was Training Officer in Thames North Synod and has a passion for worship. She is a hymn and prayer writer and composer of hymn tunes and recently wrote the book “50 hymns for 50 years” as part of the URC 50th anniversary. When she’s not writing or ministering, she loves walking and boat and bird watching.

Emma Turl

Born in Shrewsbury, 1946, Emma’s family soon moved to Lincolnshire. She was educated at Stamford High School and afterwards at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she completed her studies in English language and literature, with a certificate in education to follow. Next she went to Uganda for two years with Voluntary Service Overseas, teaching English, Scripture and music. In 1971 she married John who was already teaching in Ghana, and they continued there for another ten years during which she taught for a short while before their two children were born. Since early adolescence she had been gradually losing her eyesight, and an acute lack of balance has developed separately, restricting mobility but freeing her for other occupational opportunities.

Emma has always loved poetry and hymns, and at university she became interested in trying to re-express Bible passages such as psalms in contemporary idiom. By 2000 she had published about a hundred verses, often set to music by her friend Gill Berry and Her husband John Turl. Since then many have been further edited and included on the websites of Praise and Jubilate, as well as on her own website Hymmetry. A few are also published in hymnals and psalters.

Nigel Uden

Prior to ordination, in 1984 as a minister of The Word and Sacraments in the United Reformed Church, Nigel Uden’s church life was music based.  He was a chorister in the village parish church at Brockham Green, Surrey and later an Organist and Choirmaster. He studied organ with Arthur Potter, W.W. L. Baker, Philip Moore, and Harry Bramma. He was much involved in the Royal School of Church Music as a boy, gaining its St Nicholas Award, and attending its cathedral courses in Westminster Abbey. Later, he served its committees in the North West of England and in the Transvaal of South Africa. 

Having prepared for ordination at the Congregational College and the Victoria University of Manchester, ministry took him to Stockport, Johannesburg, St Annes on the Sea, and Cambridge, where since 2010 he has been minister of what is now Downing Place Church and of Fulbourn URC. He has served as Moderator of the United Reformed Church’s Southern Synod (2001-2010), and from 2018-20, of its General Assembly.​​​​​​​

In worship, he is eager to ensure the weaving of Word, Sacrament and music into a fabric that nourishes faith, encourages following of Jesus Christ and ‘moves us to a more profound Alleluia’, as Fred Pratt Green would have us sing.     

Janet Wootton

Janet Wootton is immediate past Executive President of the Hymn Society of Britain and Ireland, and current Chair of the Pratt Green Trust. She is a hymn writer, and has spoken and written widely on hymnody and worship. She edited the worship resource Worship Live for many years, and has co-edited a book with Gillian Warson, First Flight Feathers: the Best of Worship Live (Sacristy, 2023)She is working on a new book: The Astonishing Life of Hymns: A Global Spirituality of Hymn-Singing, to be published in 2025 by Peter Lang publishers.