Monthly Archives: June 2013

When the Sparrow Sang at Church

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

Mother was always busy on Saturdays getting her Sunday School opening service ready.   This occurred about the first 20 minutes on Sunday Morning for the whole congregation but especially the children.  Afterward, everyone would proceed to their individual classes.  She would be highly focused, making posters with art pens and paints or something else to help illustrate the point she wanted to make.

One time she discovered a woman in the church who whistled beautifully and could make lovely bird calls.  A plan developed.  Next Sunday a soloist would sing the song “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” and the whistler would add beautiful bird sounds above her singing voice.   The whistler would be at a microphone back behind the platform out of sight.   A ‘sparrow’ created by Mother would be brought in to sit beside the soloist and appear to be the one whistling.

When the time came, Mother explained to the congregation that the sparrow itself was going to be heard from this morning at church.   While the soloist would sing, the sparrow would be accompanying her.

Mother covered me in a costume of crepe paper and dressed me up as a sparrow with wings and a bill and everything.  I could see out where they cut holes for my eyes.  I was perched on a little dolly.  Someone pulled me out across the platform beside the soloist.  When the whistling behind stage began, I moved my head as if the sparrow itself was doing the whistling.

The children were spellbound.  The adults already knew the words to that song and were were smiling at this unusual demonstration.  But they were also very moved at this beautiful musical reminder that, yes, our God is the one who sees us and knows us intimately. . . and loves us more than we can really comprehend, and we can rest assured he will take care of us at all times.

People outside of our area noted Mother’s opening services on Sunday mornings, because some years later, she was asked to repeat the sparrow event for the national Sunday School Convention in Springfield, Missouri.  Again I was dressed up as the sparrow, and again people responded, as they were reassured that we have a God who sees us, loves us, and watches over us.

A Hymn to Help

This song has helped so many people so many times.  It has been sung by the famous Ethel Waters and George Beverly Shea.  No doubt it has been hummed in many homes and remembered tearfully through many struggles.  It has backing in the scriptures and is stated so beautifully in Matthew 10 and Matthew 6.

     Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside     your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

     Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  

Mississippi Children’s Choir link below, singing “His Eye is On the Sparrow.”

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uatCU8QzdyA

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,

Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 Refrain:

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,

When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Image

 Here is a picture of our Mother today.

Elaine@hymnserve.com

Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.

Idyllic St. John’s on the Rappahannock

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com   card00558_fr

It was January, cold and even snowy in Virginia.

The phone call was from the Rector, Dr. Bailey.  They  needed help with the music on a Sunday and were going down the American Guild of Organists list of possible substitutes where my name was listed.  They were located in the town of Tappahannock, about an 60 miles or so from Richmond on the Rappahannock River.  Also, the Bishop was to visit them which made it doubly difficult with no organist.  It captured my attention and stirred my compassion.  I agreed literally to go the extra mile.

Rather than travel so much in bad weather, we decided that I would go on Saturday afternoon, work with the choir, and stay the night in the parish house.   Little did I know what a memorable experience it would be.

I gathered music and an overnight bag and headed out Saturday afternoon on Highway 360.    It was a pleasant drive, but the approach to the little town kind of took my breath away.  As I took the bridge across the River, I could see the lovely church on the other side, traditional vertical siding of English Gothic style of the most picturesque of the Episcopal churches.  I drove up and went inside the church, and met the Rector, an older, dignified, man.  He introduced me to the choir, a small and faithful group ready to do whatever I said.  They were so o o o thankful that I came, and it made my time with them the most pleasant.

After a good workout and planning with the choir, I got familiar with the organ and practiced awhile until was time to go next door to the parish house.  It was cold outside, but they had a blazing fire going in the fireplace.  Mrs. Bailey was preparing supper.  She was like a lovely storybook character with her British accent, full of kindness, the lines in her face where smiles had occurred.  They both welcomed me to their cozy little house.    Then the Rector asked if I would like some sherry before the meal.   How unusual, I thought, that the minister would offer an alcoholic drink.  This all has to do with the way I was raised.  But I knew this was part of their best hospitality they were offering me, so we shared a glass of wine and had an easy conversation about things that we had in common.  When it was time to eat, we gathered around the fire and ate on folding trays, and the soup was delicious.  Everything about it was delightful and homey and surpassed my expectations.

When I went upstairs to the tiny comfortable room prepared for me, they had one last surprise.  Almost unnoticed, on the shelves full of interesting  books, was a miniature vase with little white flowers in it.  I touched them and they were real and this was January.  Later, Mrs. Bailey gave me the story.  They are snowdrops.  And they will come up through the snow!  They grow in the parish yard and around the big tree out there.

Everything went well the next day.  The Bishop was there, music was lovely, and everyone happy about the day, and no one would have known the challenge that preceded it.   How glad I was that I said yes!

A Hymn to Help

After that I became a somewhat permanent substitute.  They called again when they had a special challenge at the time of the Easter season.  That was when I learned more of the beautiful hymns from the Episcopal tradition that they loved.  I began to love them too.   Most memorable for me is the hymn  “I Bind Unto Myself Today,”  a hymn about getting close to our God.  I love the idea of binding myself closely together with the strong Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   There is a departure from the song toward the end which goes into another melody in a major key.  In it, I recognized Grandma Clark’s words as she used to pray for us.  She must have known this hymn from her earlier days, because she would pray protection over us asking that God be over us, under us, all around us, just like the words here.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

 Here is a nice rendition of this hymn by the Corpus Christi Male Chorale.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlZhCmMuGrQ

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St. John’s Episcopal Church in the town of Tappahannock is located in the heart of historic Tidewater area. Situated on the south side of the Rappahannock River, it was built in 1849 and is the only purely Gothic Revival structure in the County.

Elaine@hymnserve.com

Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.