Tag Archives: hymn singing

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.

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Aunt Virginia’s Favorite Hymns

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com  photo

Aunt Virginia–so stylish and cool.

When I saw her shoes, I sure wanted some just like hers with the white straps coming up around the ankles.  When we managed to find a pair of shoes as much like hers as possible, Mother went along with it and got them for me.   Virginia had a refined sense of humor.  Very funny.  She used words that fired the imagination and the funny bone like when we were in a tiny town in Nebraska and couldn’t find the family reunion.  “We come all the way from Oregon, and now here we are ‘hurtling’ up and down Main Street trying to find it,” was the way she described it.

After I grew up, we would go by Portland any time we were close and would visit with her and Uncle Warren.  First we would peruse her exquisite antique shop attached to the house.  Her taste and knowledge was notable.  Uncle would work on the antiques in the room at the back of the elongated shop.  He could be a bit gruff with the customers–kind of the John Wayne type only much more handsome.  Therefore, Aunt Virginia stated that he is President of the Back Room and she is President of the Front.

One day when I was there with her, I saw a darling curved leg writing desk in the shop.   They were getting older, I mused.  How much longer would they have the shop?  Maybe I should buy a piece that Warren had worked on and Virginia had selected herself.  It would be memorable for me.  So, now as I write, I can look at the small desk and still love it as much as when I first saw it as I think of her.

It had always concerned me down through the years that Virginia didn’t declare that she knew the Lord.  They didn’t attend church, didn’t speak about the Christian life.  I knew she idolized her older brother, Elmond, a dedicated minister and servant of Jesus.  She was raised by an alcoholic father, who at age 50 had a miraculous turnaround when he accepted Jesus and served as a minister until in his 80’s.  That was my Granddad Clark.

When our families would get together, we would always sing around the piano, and I noticed in those later years it became a habit that Aunt Virginia would request us to sing two songs.  The Wonder of It All, sung so well by George Beverly Shea, and I Believe in Miracles.  Cousin Loren had sung both of them many times in the past as solos.  So we would always sing those for her.  Now that I am writing this, I notice that the theme of both of them is the saving grace of Jesus.  This speaks to me even now.

When I heard that she was diagnosed with a life threatening illness, I hated it.  I didn’t want to face it, so I waited months without contacting her.  Then one day I knew I must call her and tell her how much she had meant to me.  I explained that why I didn’t call sooner was that I didn’t want to confront the fact that her life was threatened.  It was a good conversation.

After the two of them moved into assisted living, I flew out once again to Portland.   What a happy surprise when it turned out to be a mini-reunion with a little group of us cousins coming together to see her.  Very shortly after I got there, Aunt Virginia asked me something about being ready to go…regarding her last journey.  We had a short conversation.   Did she ask God for forgiveness for the wrongs she had committed in her life?  “Oh hundreds of times!” she responded.  Then I assured her that was all she needed to do.   It is so comforting to me now that we talked about this.

We had a wonderful time all of us together.  We had to go down to the large reception area by the piano and have our group sing.  Other residents gathered around and began to request hymns or other songs they would like to sing.  One more time we sang Aunt Virginia’s favorites for her.

Hymns That Help

The Wonder of It All   

There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

Refrain
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

There’s the wonder of springtime and harvest,
The sky, the stars, the sun;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is a wonder that’s only begun.

I Believe in Miracles

Creation shows the power of God
There’s glory all around
And those who see Him stand in awe
For miracles abound

Refrain
I believe in miracles
I’ve seen a soul set free
Miraculous the change in one
Redeemed through Calvary
I’ve seen the lily push its way
Up through the stubborn sod
I believe in miracles
For I believe in God.

I cannot doubt the work of God
It’s plain for all to see
The miracles that He has wrought
Should lead to Calvary

The love of God, oh power divine
‘Tis wonderful to see
The miracle of grace performed
Within the heart of me

At the funeral, we sang them again. . . for her and for ourselves, as we celebrated Aunt Virginia’s life.   I am reassured that Aunt Virginia made her last journey well, and we will see her again in our heavenly home.

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHHbzPS6Hb8

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

My Catholic Experience

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com   hs-home-01

It was a venerable neighborhood Catholic church in Wichita and my first paid organ position after finishing college.  

For a person raised in the evangelical tradition, it was very much a new experience.  In my growing up years, we gave wide berth to anything Catholic.  There was a loud bell like the recess bell at school that would sound out and give me a start, signaling when the bread and wine was actually turning into the blood and body of Jesus.  The young director would roll his eyes when the priest was singing knowing how impossible it was for the choir to get the correct pitch from his singing and continue on through the liturgy.  There was a big drape hiding the statue of Jesus at the front during Lent, so that on Easter Morning it would be triumphantly removed.  This had to be good for the children to help dramatize our Lord’s resurrection, I thought.

Every Sunday the Latin was sung and the same words were used.  They would ask for mercy from God….  Kyrie eleison, (Lord have mercy), Christe eleison, (Christ have mercy). I had studied the parts of the Mass, the Kyrie, the Gloria, and all.   Even as the statues in the darkened church when no one else was around felt a bit spooky to me, neither had we put that much emphasis on asking for mercy from God in my growing up years.   However, this time at the Catholic church was to add an important dimension to my life experience.

The congregation was in the throes of transition at that time, changing from Latin to English for the Mass and learning new music…hymns.    The young choir director would rush downstairs on Sunday mornings before Mass began and lead the congregation in the hymn they would be singing that day.  They never sang hymns before…that was a Protestant thing.   The favorite new hymn and best standby for the congregation was Holy, Holy, Holy.  They sang it often.

Since I was invited to join them downstairs for weekly coffee after Mass, I began to know the people more personally.  I observed what a struggle it was to make this transition, especially one dear gray-haired woman.  I felt a lot of compassion for them, and was very sympathetic with their decision to move toward the opposite spectrum of Christianity for the sake of more unity among us.  After all, if the early Christians had not written down the scriptures by hand at candlelight, preserved them, and kept the faith alive, I, myself, would never have known the story of Jesus.

One Sunday morning, the choir was singing one of their a capella parts of the Mass.  I was sitting over at the side there in the balcony.  As I listened to their singing, I felt something familiar in this unfamiliar surrounding.  The warmth of God’s Spirit just settled down right there all around me.  This was a big surprise to me.   I never expected to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit here in this place.  

So this was a big lesson for me.  God’s Spirit can flow here as I listen to the music of the liturgy.  This was the beginning of my peeking around the huge wall that I thought separated me from other denominations, only to find that there wasn’t a wall there at all.  God’s Spirit lights in many places, at the mall, driving in a car, anywhere.  It flies away just as easily, like a gentle dove.  It won’t stay where there is discord in the heart, preferring love, peace, joy, all those fruits of the Spirit.

After the Catholic Church, I went on to work in the Baptist, Methodist, Congregational Christian (Disciples of Christ), Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Christian Science, and others I may have left out.   It has all been to my benefit, for I know now that there are wonderful Christians implanted everywhere.  They are like yeast in bread, and are enmeshed amongst all types of humanity shining there for all the world to see, adding salt to a tasteless world.

The favorite first hymn of the dear Catholics in Wichita is highlighted here, Holy, Holy, Holy.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!

Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.

Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,

God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee

casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,

which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide thee,

though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,

only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,

perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!

All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.

Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,

God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

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

HymnServe.com – Saturday at the White Castle

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

What a welcome the weekend was. 

We were both exhausted and weary from the past week.  What made us go downtown by the capitol in Richmond so early on a Saturday morning, I don’t remember.  But there we were, having parked and walking around with some welcome free time to do whatever we wanted.   Then we saw the White Castle and said, “Let’s get some breakfast.”

We went in and sat on stools at two of the few counter places in the little cafe.  Nobody else was in there.  An older African American woman took our order.  She has gotten up so early this morning and is running the place by herself, I thought.   As she fried the bacon and carefully put the eggs on the griddle, we sat quietly and watched.

Above the sound of the blower above the griddle, I could faintly hear her humming.  I believe it was a hymn that was very familiar to me.  Whatever it was about the moment, it got my full attention, and she spoke to me a sermon that rivaled any Sunday sermon I ever heard.  It got right into my heart.  I marveled at her peace and contentment at her work.  It pointed up my own attitude so many times about ‘work.‘  It was compared to my lack of enthusiasm about the common everyday tasks of a mother and wife that were part of my life.   As she placed the plates in front of us and we began to eat, I felt humbled by her kind service to me.

That has been years ago now, but it is stamped in the memory, because it made me want to be more like her.  Lord, make me to be more thankful, grateful, content, and kinder in the work that you have given me to do.

– Elaine@hymnserve.com

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

 

HymnServe.com – Grandma’s Singing

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

Grandma Burry would really sing. photo

During hymn singing at church, I can still hear her voice.   She participated wholeheartedly, not especially loud though, and sometimes her hand would move up and down in rhythm to the music and she might bounce a little up and down.  I can’t say her style was “Cool.”   No it was unpolished, unpretentious, unselfconscious,…..and sincere…real worship to her Lord and Savior.  Her singing is now a lovely memory for me.

She almost always had an apron on at home.  And she would sing and hum while she was working.  These songs undoubtedly strengthened her.  You see, she had been a widow with 7 children to raise alone and ran a restaurant in a tiny crossroads of a town in order to make enough to get by.

A Hymn to Help

Now as a grandmother myself, I can remember Grandma’s favorite hymn.  As I peruse the words and put myself into her mind, I can see why she loved it.  Contained in it was a lesson for all of us, her children, grandchildren and everyone else.   ‘Ere you left your room this morning, Did you think to pray? In the name of Christ our Savior, Did you sue for loving favor, As a shield today? 

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So when life seems dark and dreary
Don’t forget to pray.

When you met with great temptation
Did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit
Did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay?

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So when life seems dark and dreary
Don’t forget to pray.

When your heart was filled with anger
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So when life seems dark and dreary
Don’t forget to pray.

When sore trials came upon you
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was bowed in sorrow
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So when life seems dark and dreary
Don’t forget to pray.

– Elaine@hymnserve.com

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