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When The Roll is Called Up Yonder

I don’t remember a lot about school when I was little, but I can still remember roll call. Roll call happened every morning in our home room class. The teacher would start at the beginning and read each name. One by one, every student would respond to let the teacher know that he or she was there.

There were many times when the teacher would read the name of a friend or a classmate and the room would be silent. No answer would follow. They were not there.

James M. Black was a songwriter and a Sunday School teacher. One evening he was calling the roll of his children when a silence fell across the room. One little girl was not there. He waited for her voice but no answer came.

In the silent moment, the thought occurred to James; is this what it will be like when the Book Of Life is opened in heaven? What will it be like when a name is called and someone is not there? What a dreadful silence that would be!

He was so impacted by the unexpected silence of that young girl that he went to visit her and called a doctor. Then, he hurried to his own home and went straight to his piano. He looked for a hymn to sing about his experience and found nothing at all. How odd! There had never been a hymn written about the roll call of God’s Book of Life!

In fifteen minutes Black wrote the hymn, “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” The Song expresses the yearning of God’s people to be at home with God and the expectation of a life of peace and joy in the hereafter. Here are the lyrics that came forth from James Black’s heart in 1893.