Adelaide Addison Pollard

Adelaide Addison Pollard

Born: No­vem­ber 27, 1862, Bloom­field, IA (birth name: Sa­rah Ad­di­son Pol­lard).
Died: De­cem­ber 20, 1934, New York Ci­ty.
Buried: Elm­wood Ce­me­te­ry, Fort Ma­di­son, IA.

Editor’s note: No known photo of Adelaide exists that I can find. Images on the Internet erroneously attribute Adelaide Anne (‘Mary Berick’) Procter (1825-1864), poet, hymn writer and radical women’s activist to our Adelaide. Similar name but a different person a continent apart. Here I’ve created a watercolor representation of Adelaide using AI.

Hymns by Adelaide Pollard

John Alexander Dowie
John Alexander Dowie
Frank Weston Sandford
Frank Weston Sandford

Editor’s note: Read Sanford’s Wikipedia page for a shocking dive into the craziness of cultish early 1900’s behavior. It’s quite the read! I would love to know more about Adelaide’s involvement with him.

A Life Devoted to Faith and Hymns

Adelaide Addison Pollard was a remarkable woman whose life was centered on her unwavering faith. She was described as a “saintly” woman. Born Sarah Pollard on November 27, 1862 in Bloomfield, Iowa, she later adopted the name Adelaide, finding it more to her liking. Her path was one of devotion and service to the Lord.

Becoming a Bible Teacher and Evangelist

After receiving training in Chicago, Adelaide taught in several girls’ schools before embarking on a career as an itinerant Bible teacher. Her reputation grew, and she became involved with the ministries of evangelists like Alexander Dowie, participating in healing services and preaching on the imminent return of Christ. A woman of deep faith, Adelaide had a ministry of prayer for the sick. She herself experienced divine healing from diabetes through prayer.

The Influence of Alexander Dowie

Adelaide’s involvement with Alexander Dowie, a prominent evangelist and faith healer, likely shaped and influenced her own ministry and beliefs about divine healing. Dowie was known for his large-scale healing services and his claims of being a prophet. While Dowie’s later years were marked by scandal and controversy, we’ll explore his possible influence on Adelaide next.

A woman of deep faith, Adelaide had a ministry of prayer for the sick. She herself experienced divine healing from diabetes through prayer, a powerful demonstration of her unwavering belief in God’s power.

Pollard’s Mystical Inclinations

Pollard was known for her profound spiritual depth and led a life steeped in faith and “mysticism.” What does that mean? We can’t be sure, as specific details about her mystical beliefs remain elusive. Without direct evidence, we may gain some insight by taking a look at her associations with prominent religious figures of her time, particularly John Alexander Dowie and Frank Weston Sandford (though it is important to note that these connections do not necessarily imply her full agreement with their teachings or practices.)

Dowie, a prominent figure in the faith healing movement of the late 1800s, emphasized divine healing, the restoration of spiritual gifts, and the imminent return of Christ. Sandford, founder of an apocalyptic sect called “The Kingdom,” promoted similar ideas, encouraging followers to “live in the supernatural” and be ready for the “Holy Spirit’s latest” guidance. These themes may have influenced Pollard’s spiritual journey, potentially shaping her mystical outlook. Their focus on “entire consecration” and holiness aligns with Pollard’s reputation for deep spirituality and devotion.

Intriguingly, Pollard changed her name from Sarah to Adelaide, a choice that coincidentally echoes Dowie’s time in Adelaide, Australia. While this may be mere happenstance, it adds an element of intrigue to her personal transformation and spiritual path.

Contemporaries regarded Pollard as a mystic. Her later attraction to “extreme texts” suggests a deepening of her spiritual journey, though the nature of these texts remains unknown despite my research. This interest might relate to the apocalyptic teachings and British Israelism promoted by figures like Sandford.

Pollard’s mysticism appears to have been a deeply personal and profound aspect of her life, influencing her ministry and creative work. While these mystical beliefs may remain hidden by history, her legacy as a woman of profound faith and spiritual insight endures through “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

In the absence of more concrete information, our understanding of Pollard’s mysticism must remain somewhat speculative. The religious movements she was associated with were complex and often controversial, and we can only guess at how she navigated these influences. Further research may yet uncover more details about this fascinating aspect of her life and work.

The Unfulfilled Call to Africa

As she approached her 40th year, Adelaide felt a powerful call to serve as a missionary in Africa. She endeavored to raise the necessary funds on her own, but to her great disappointment, the door remained closed. It was during this time of deep discouragement that the words of a simple prayer changed the course of her life.

While attending a prayer meeting in 1902, Adelaide overheard an elderly woman pray, “It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord — just have your way with our lives…” These humble words pierced Adelaide’s heart. Returning home that evening, she meditated on the story of the potter from Jeremiah 18:3-6:

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” (KJV)

Inspired by this powerful imagery, Adelaide penned the lyrics to what would become her most enduring hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” The verses poured out of her, and she wrote it all in one sitting:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter; I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

A Legacy in Lyrics

Though her missionary dreams were deferred, Adelaide continued to serve faithfully. She taught at the Missionary Training School in Nyack, New York and finally made it to Africa for a short time before World War I apparently forced her to flee to Scotland. Returning to America, she persevered in her ministry despite failing health, preaching throughout New England.

In her lifetime, Adelaide wrote over 100 hymns and Gospel songs, most signed simply with her initials, AAP. She sought no recognition for her work, desiring only to glorify her Savior. “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” set to music by George Stebbins in 1907, remains her greatest legacy, a heartfelt prayer that continues to resonate with believers around the world.

A Contrast in Legacies

While Dowie’s later years were marked by financial misconduct and fraudulent practices, Pollard’s hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” has stood the test of time as a beloved prayer of surrender. This contrast emphasizes the lasting significance of her contribution to Christian music and devotion. Adelaide’s life exemplifies the importance of integrity, humility, and steadfast faith in ministry.

A Timeless Message of Surrender

Today, over a century after its composition, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” continues to inspire and comfort believers around the globe. Its message of yielding to the divine Potter’s hand, of allowing God to shape and mold us according to His perfect plan, resonates with the human heart’s deepest longings.

Adelaide Pollard’s life and legacy serve as a reminder that even in the face of disappointment and unfulfilled dreams, we can find peace and purpose in surrendering our lives to God. Her words, born from a place of brokenness and trust, have become a timeless prayer, inviting us to lay down our own plans and embrace the beautiful, transformative work of the Master Potter.

In a world that often values self-reliance and personal ambition, Adelaide Pollard’s hymn stands as a gentle yet powerful call to relinquish control and allow God to have His way in our lives. As we sing her words, we join our voices with the countless believers who have found comfort, strength, and guidance in this simple, profound prayer:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

Through her devotion and the timeless message of her hymns, Adelaide Addison Pollard continues to inspire generations of Christians to trust in the loving guidance of the divine Potter, knowing that in His hands, we are forever safe and forever changed.

Don Chapman

Don Chapman

Composer/arranger Don Chapman has created HYMNDEX as a labor of love to help new generations learn about the lives, legacies and lyrics of historic hymn writers.