Christopher Smith had never heard of John Newton when, with a little time to spare and in search of some air conditioning, he browsed through the children’s section of a library in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, looking for inspiration for his church youth groups.
The police officer and religious education director had no idea that this experience of “just killing time” would be his life-changing moment, one that would lead him from small-town life in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to the Great White Way. As it turned out, he was the one who was inspired.
Reading through a book about Newton, Smith was fascinated by the story of the British slave trader, the shipwreck, his enslavement, then his religious conversion and new life as an Anglican priest and outspoken abolitionist. Smith was so captivated by the story that he had skipped the foreword and had not realized the man he was reading about had composed one of the world’s most beloved hymns, “Amazing Grace.” It was then that Smith felt the beginning of his own conversion.