Tag Archives: university

A Day Trip to Duke University

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com


This time I would go with Dan on his day trip from Richmond to Duke University. 

He would do his work and I would spend the day on my own.  So I put my nice big architecture book in the car.  In Durham, North Carolina, the campus has rich Gothic and Colonial examples and I would try to identify types of columns and recognize festoons, pediments and quoins.

It was one of those lovely spring days with brilliant white light all over everything.  Dan got out of the car and went on to find the right building for his meeting.  I just sat in the car with my book and began to study the beautiful building details right in my vision there.  To do something I had been wanting to do for a while…and on this beautiful campus…promised to be a perfect time for me.

Later, I locked up the car and went in search of the Duke University Chapel.  Someone had told me that there was an organ recital at noon every day.  As I turned a corner and arrived at large expanse at the center of the campus, I saw the chapel…   My eye scanned the beautiful gothic edifice up and up until I pinpointed the top of the tower way up there.  Fitting right in with the scene there was a young student sitting on the top of the brick wall playing his guitar and beautiful music was filling the air.  How delightful!  How could this be that I could have such a lovely day as this to break up the busy lives we lived in Richmond!  I was so thankful.

I wouldn’t be able to go in and sit down for the concert, because I had to be on the lookout for Dan since he didn’t know when he would be finished.  So I went up the many steps leading to the entrance door all the time listening to the dear young guitar player.  I hoped to hear the music of the organ, but not sure how.  I cracked the door open and sure enough I could hear that way.  If someone wanted to enter, I could open the door for them.  Standing there in the doorway, I spied an elderly man slowly making his way up the stairs, no doubt coming to hear the music.  Hmm…he has the look of an old  professor, with his tweedy jacket drooping a little on the shoulders, his white hair and beard.  He must come here every day.  As I opened the door for him,  he stopped and his eyes twinkled as they met mine.  “Are you the doorkeeper?” he said.

I smiled and answered, “yes,”  and he went on inside.

As the organist played, I thought, me… a doorkeeper.  Just like the song which says ‘I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of wickedness.’  How true that was for me too.   As I lingered there, I saw two little sparrows fluttering around in the exquisite carvings up on the wall above the door.  The song by Samuel Liddle based on the Psalm 84 was being played out right before my eyes.  How lovely are Thy dwellings, O Lord of Hosts!  (How do the words go?)

“My soul longeth yea fainteth for the house of the Lord.

My heart and my flesh cry out for the living word.

Even the sparrow hath found a house

Where she may lay her young, even Thine altars,

O Lord of Hosts, My strength and my God!”

Do you remember the ‘object lessons’ we had long ago in children’s church?  This felt like a real life object lesson presented that day by God himself.  I felt the glow of it all the way home and was anticipating looking up the entire Psalm to see how many parts of it were illustrated to me that day.

A Hymn to Help

Here is the Psalm:

       How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;  My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.   Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young–a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.  

       Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.  Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.   As they pass through the Valley of Baka, make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.  Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob.  Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.  

       Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.  Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.


Members of the Duke family were devout Methodists. Although Duke Chapel is not a Methodist church, above the portal are sculptures of those who helped advance the American Methodist movement.


– Elaine@hymnserve.com

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


HymnServe.com – That Day, 9-11

That day, 9-11, we drove to Columbus for one of Dan’s meetings.

As President of University of Toledo, he had to go to Columbus periodically to meet with the other state presidents in Ohio.  I was to drop him off and then do my own thing.  I was out at the parking meter, preparing to get in the car and drive away from the building he had entered for his meeting when the cell phone rang.  It was our son who called and said, “Have you heard?”  No, because we had traveled from Toledo to Columbus without the radio on.

He said, “We are at war!”

So I just walked to the nearest place where I could see a TV–a hotel lobby where a little group of people were gathered to watch.  It wasn’t long before Dan and all the others came back down without continuing the meeting and headed back to Toledo to deal with any campus issues that might threaten.

The 2nd morning after 9-11, there was an all campus memorial gathering outdoors for students and any and everyone who wanted to come.  As I parked and walked toward the large quad in the middle of the campus, I began to hear choral music wafting out over the sunshiny air.

A Hymn to Help

The music was breathtaking, and as I got closer the scene became surreal.  So many people had quietly gathered, but the University’s male chorus was truly inspired in singing an ancient modal hymn that had been selected by the director.  I thought I knew almost any hymn they could have sung, but not this one.

God be in my head…and in my understanding,

God be in mine eyes…and in my looking,

God be in my mouth…and in my speaking,

God be in my heart…and in my thinking,

God be at mine end…and in my departing.

If ever there was a moment when God’s Spirit settled down on a place, this was one of them.  I will never forget it.

Since that time, I have gone back periodically to listen to this hymn and learn it myself.  If you want to hear it as sung by Kings College, Cambridge, you can use this link:


As a postscript to this story, it was the students of the University that held the day.  Administrators and faculty spoke during the convocation.  Then, the student body president and vice president came to the podium together to represent the students of the University.  They who had never experienced an attack by a foreign power on our homeland were crushed and frightened.

So the student body president, a devout young Catholic student, began his remarks.  Half way through he broke down so that he couldn’t continue.  The lovely young woman vice president began without a break to read his script for him.  Then when he regained his composure he began again.

He said, “I asked her beforehand to take over for me if I couldn’t finish.”  So he ended his speech.

Toledo has a high Arab population as does Detroit which is only over the border into Michigan from us.  When it came time for the Muslim student association president to make remarks, I could feel the tension rise in my own heart.  What would he say?  Would it be right?  He was a wonderfully handsome young student, and by the time he finished, he had said exactly all the things that I would have wanted him to say.

But here is the heart stopper.  Halfway through his speaking, the student body president stepped up beside him, put his hands on each of his shoulders and stood there until he finished the speech.  It signaled to all of us such an eloquent moment,. . . we are united, and we are standing together in this time of crisis.


– Elaine@hymnserve.com

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