Tag Archives: historic Virginia

A Sacred Moment at the Shoe Store

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com  Va_State_Capitol

My last day of work at the Virginia House of Delegates, it was.  Yes, I had been coming up here to the capital in Richmond for 6 years. . . before, during and after the legislative sessions.  It was a ‘part of the year’ position, 4 to 6 months.  You had to be recommended by someone who already worked there in order to be invited to work there.  It was such a quirk that I ended up doing this since I am really almost apolitical.

As a volunteer patient representative wearing the characteristic pink jacket, I walked into a hospital room one day and nobody was in the bed.  A young woman was sitting at the table writing.  She looked up and identified herself as the patient.  We quickly had a nice conversation.

Then she said, “I think you could do my job, over at the House of Delegates.”  She explained a bit about it and said I could use her name as a recommendation if I wanted to go over there and inquire about it.  I was at the University Hospital which was very close to the capital.  Why not, I thought.  It wouldn’t hurt to check into it.

After I was hired, I was trained to do indexing.  One had to quickly read the bill and compose a summary for it after which it would be added to the index of all the bills that were in the pipeline.  Then, any citizen could look up any bill and see what it is about.

It was feast or famine.  During times of heavy work or ‘feast’ we were asked to agree at the outset that we would stay late into the night if necessary to get everything done before session the next day.  During famines we would have to be on hand and had to keep busy on our own.  I always brought my check book to balance, bills to pay or a book to read.   I have to laugh when I think that I learned to knit during one of these lulls at the Virginia House of Delegates.  There were about 7 or 8 of us in the indexing area, and we would discuss all kinds of things and got to know each other pretty well.   Sometimes I was invited to offer prayer before our special pot lucks or other little celebrations in the indexing room.

Then I moved down the hall and did enrolling and engrossing, that is, work the new amendment wording into the bills and then enroll it into law.  We proofread a lot with a partner, reading out loud long passages to each other to make sure it was exact, as passed by the House.

Then for a few years I went over and had my work area right inside the chamber.  We would make sure the bills were placed on the desks of the delegates, run back and forth, carrying bills, quite a long list of duties.  At the end of the session, I told my immediate superior that I wanted to stay long enough to finish a handbook of all the forms I had learned to use, and just in what sequence each of them should be used, so it would be easier for the next person who would follow me.  I finished it early in the afternoon of my last day, and my supervisor gave me a nice going away gift.

It was kind of a let down and I decided to go down the street a while where all the stores were before I retrieved the car and went on home.  It was kind of a subdued feeling I had, a little blue.  I felt a little out of my element there on the Clerk’s staff.  I had much more trust in God than I did in politics.  Most of the staff people and interns were totally turned on by the environment, the fact that we were invited to huge events sponsored by lobbyists, invited to the governor’s mansion, and met different well known politicians in the elevator.  I remember when I had my work spot right there in the House chamber, one of the women delegates slipped in there and shed a few tears out of sight of the other legislators when one of her encounters on the ‘floor’ was more than she could take.  There was still a lot of racial tension and stories that made the rounds for the gossip networks.  What did I accomplish being there, I thought.  What good did I do for eternal values?  I couldn’t point to much.

I passed the big shoe store with long aisles up and down.  So I stopped in.  In mid-afternoon nobody was in there.  The young African American clerk was at the front by the cash register and a friend apparently had stopped by and they were talking.  I lost myself looking at the hundreds of shoes displayed on the long aisles.

I was toward the back and all of a sudden I heard the words to a Psalm I had learned in grade school.  Our teacher had helped us memorize several of the Psalms and we spoke them for the PTA meeting as a speaking choir.  (Yes, this was a public school, but even then the teacher was very courageous in finding a way to instill valuable truths in her students.)  The shoe store clerk was quoting one of those songs as written by David the shepherd who composed many of the Psalms.  The young man wasn’t singing it, because we have no record of the ancient tunes.  He was almost preaching the words to his friend, very animated and inspired with his voice raised.

He didn’t know it but it was for me too that he was quoting this special passage that I had memorized long ago.  I stopped in my tracks and listened intently, the words rolling over me like a cool shower bringing comfort and a deep breath as I stood among the shoe boxes.  I knew it was a poignant reminder from Jesus himself, given to me as a gift that afternoon.

Here is what I heard.

        Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

(Father God, this is the kind of person I have tried to be.)

        But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

(Do you remember, Jesus, the verse I typed up and put on the bulletin board above my desk? “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.”   And then one day someone had taken it down?)

        And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;  

(Lord, you are saying to me that maybe I don’t see any fruit from my life now, but in the right season, it will be there.) 

        his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 

(What a marvelous promise, Lord!  Thank you!)

       The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

(Thank you Father, God, that you have planted me on solid ground and my life won’t be waste material that would blow away in the wind.)

       Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

(Thank you for cleaning me up and allowing me a place in your congregation; that is where I most want to be.) 

       For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.  

(Thank you, God, that you loved the world so much that you gave your only begotten son and caused me to believe in Him and not perish but have everlasting life.)

Psalm 1

King James Version (KJV)

Here is a beautiful and contemporary rendition of Psalm 1:

Elaine@hymnserve.com

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

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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

sj0382

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.