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Hooray for the Hymnal by David Garrard

Hooray for the Hymnal

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

Several months ago, I began using my old 1956 Baptist Hymnal as part of my devotions. I started at the very beginning and am gradually working my way through. I just read the text — singing along if I know the tune, which I most often do — and let God speak to me through the words.

This has been a wonderful experience. So many of these hymns have texts that are inspired and incredibly insightful. It’s a shame we don’t sing them more.

In the hymnal’s Preface, then SBC Sunday School Board Executive Secretary-Treasurer James L. Sullivan wrote, “In this music we find expressed every feeling and emotion, every truth and doctrine of our Christian faith. As we sing, we not only express what is in our hearts, but we grow in Christian character and are strengthened in our faith.”

That certainly has proved true for me as I have revisited hymns I first heard and sang as a child.

My experience prompted a new feature on my Facebook page which I decided to call “Hooray for the Hymnal!” On occasion (not every day), I highlight a hymn and call attention to part of the text. I might include a comment or two, but for the most part, I just let the hymns speak for themselves.

As many will remember, No. 1 in the Baptist Hymnal is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” It leads off the General Worship section and is specifically tagged as a hymn of adoration and praise. The words were written by Reginald Heber and the tune by John Dykes. I’ve always been partial to verse three:

Holy, holy, holy!  Tho the darkness hide thee,
Tho the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see;
Only thou are holy; there is none beside thee,
Perfect in power, in love and purity.

As one who has more of earthly life behind me than ahead, I resonated with, and was encouraged by, the last verse of No. 29, “Day Is Dying in the West” (words by Mary A. Lathbury, tune by William F. Sherwin):

When forever from our sight
Pass the stars, the day, the night,
Lord of angels, on our eyes
Let eternal morning rise,
And shadows end

Verse two of No. 54, “God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand” (words by Daniel C. Roberts, tune by George W. Warren) has given me a new way to think about and pray for my country:

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by thee our lot is cast;
Be thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay,
Thy word our law, thy paths our chosen way.

And I’ve always loved No. 59, “This Is My Father’s World” (words by Maltbie B. Babcock, tune by Franklin Sheppard).  Verse three of this beautiful hymn reminds me that even when it seems the entire world has lost its way, God is still in control:

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget,
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heaven be one.

With 553 entries (including the Amens!) I’ve got a long way to go, but the journey already has been rewarding and has brought new insights as well as good memories. And the response has been wonderful. I have received messages from folks who have dug out their own copies, found copies that belonged to parents and even purchased copies on eBay.

So hooray for the hymnal! I invite you to find a copy, join me in this adventure, and allow these great songs of faith to speak to you in the same way they are speaking to me — again.

David Garrard

*David Garrard is a professional magician who lives in Louisville, Ky. He was the longtime minister to children at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville until his recent retirement

 

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Searching for God and Finding the Treasure by Sister Sandra Makowski

The Black Lives Matter movement caused me to look at the privileges that being white has afforded me. An unexpected outcome from reading Sister Sandra Makowski’s book Searching for God and Finding the Treasure was being forced to look at the privileges that being male has brought me.

No one ever questioned my ability to work in the church because I am a male. In fact, many urged me to assume more responsibility. Never have I been told that my prayers were unacceptable because I used the wrong words to sign off.

It is difficult to imagine the horrors that this devout Christian has endured unless you have read Susan Spark’s account of being told that girls can’t be preachers by her Baptist pastors.

This is not just a Catholic story. It is the story of how women who are called to serve God have been abused, denied, ignored, disrespected, belittled, undervalued and underpaid.

My friend was serving her first job as an assistant pastor in a church affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The lead pastor was so disrespectful of her gifts, so jealous of her popularity with the congregation and so insecure that he drove her from the ministry entirely.

It is not a Catholic story. The Southern Baptist Convention has written into its 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement that women cannot be senior pastors. The denomination is now plagued with dozens of cases of abuse, which it has failed to adequately address, often citing local church autonomy as a reason for its limited actions.

Tragically, while the claim that each church is autonomous was cited as a reason for not adequately addressing the sexual abuse crisis, this position has not prevented the SBC from expelling churches that do not abide by its doctrinal views. Not until after the release of a Houston Chronicle report in 2019 did the SBC decide to make mishandling sexual abuse as a basis for removing a church from the convention.

In addition to losing her twin sister in a car accident, Sister Sandra’s search for God was thwarted at every turn by men and women who should have been the ones to help her. What she discovered through many trials is that God is not always in the places where she was taught that God should be.

She was so traumatized by her confirmation that it was years before she entered the confessional booth again. There were those “Sisters” in grade school who showed her kindness and compassion. Thanks to their influence, she was not lost to Christian service.

She was in the first class of women admitted to study Cannon Law, but the women were often belittled and ignored by the male faculty. The same maltreatment greeted her in her new role.

Sister Sandra was deceived, belittled and ignored. In desperation she pleaded, “God give me a sign? I am going to close my eyes and open my Bible. I will put my finger down on a verse and it had better be a sign from you or I am done.”

She put her finger down and opened her eyes. The verse was, “Love is strong as death” (Song of Solomon 8:6, NRSV). Makowski began to realize that she saw God every day and God was saying to her.

“See the mothers holding their babies with love and affection. See the crippled and lame being taken care of by a loved one who held them steady as they entered the church doors or stood in line for confession. See the face of the homeless man who lost his entire family in a car accident – he asked you for help in getting a library card because he was trying to find a book that would comfort him,” she wrote. “You gave him the Bible … and he wept. This is the real church.”

Sister Sandra has written an exciting, challenging and disquieting book. It leads me in a direction that I did not expect and leaves me with work to do in my own life, church and denomination.

Who could expect more?

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“Listening Is Hard Work : www.day1.org

Wednesday September 21, 2022

Day1
Organization: Alliance for Christian Media
Denomination: n/a

“To be heard is to be healed,” according to the Rev. Susan Sparks. A great many of our problems and national wounds could be healed, if we would listen to one another.

No one wins nor do we make progress when we shout at each other or turn a deaf ear to a proposal without considering its possible merits. This is no easy solution. Listening is hard work even under the best of circumstances. One must make a conscious effort to actively listen and not interrupt.

Interrupting is an act of war. It shouts that what I have to say is more important than what you have to say. We may feel that way, but if progress is to be made we must be willing to listen. That does not giving the other person permission to run on forever. We are talking about give and take in a civil conversation. Bishop Sally Dyck of the United Methodist Church has suggested Holy Conferencing. The idea is that the person holding a plastic dove has permission to talk without interruption. The dove is then passed to someone on the opposite side of the issue.

Calling each other names or pinning labels on each other will make the situation worse. A sure way to block real communication is to tell me that the problem is my fault. That may be true, but it will not move the conservation forward. Instead try, “Here is a way that could help us solve our impasse.”

If I treat you with respect and you treat me with respect, we are well on our way to creating an environment in which it is possible to make progress. I am not suggesting that it is necessary for any of us to give up our convictions or principles. I am suggesting that we sincerely take the time to listen to each other.

There are so many issues on which we disagree, but there are so many more issues on which we agree or have some levels of agreement. Start with the basics. I love this country and I know that you do as well. I am in favor of national health insurance for all of our citizens. Help me understand why you are not. I favor finding a way to citizenship for the so called Dreamers. Tell me why you are not. At this point you are tempted to call me a liberal, but that would not move us forward nor would it solve our problem.

Perhaps I should rephrase my statement. How could we improve accessibility to health care for all Americans? Are there some steps we could take that would lead to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers?

I have dinner every week with a group that I have been eating with for at least 35 years. We celebrate birthdays and holidays. We have attended weddings and funerals in each other’s family. All of the others in the group are members of a different political party from me and yet we have found a way to maintain our friendships. It has not always been easy, but we are dedicated to one another.

Honest conversation is rare because it is so difficult. It requires effort and a willingness to engage. It is far easier to ignore you, discount you or call you names. That requires no thought at all, but I am the loser. Our country, our civic organization or our church is the loser. As usual the Scriptures say it best: “Come now, let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV)

……

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC. He is the founder of Say Something Nice Day and Say Something Nice Sunday on the first Sunday in June. He blogs at www.mitchcarnell.com.

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Rites Are Rarely Wrong – Chaplain Norris Burkes

In the Baptist church where I grew up, Deacon Bob taught that rites and rituals were of Catholic origin and therefore had no place in the Baptist faith.
As a chaplain, I can tell you that rites are rarely wrong.

Deacon Bob was wrong. Our Sunday services was full of rituals.

The worship service always began with a prayer, followed by three songs. The congregation usually stood during the first and the third songs, and a soloist or choir anthem transitioned the worship into the offering time.  Immediately after the offering plates were collected, our pastor delivered a three-point, 25-minute sermon that concluded with an altar call hymn.

Rituals and rites are intrinsic parts of life. As a healthcare chaplain, I have found this especially true in the death and dying process. I’ve helped deliver rites and rituals to people of all faiths. While these rites would mean very little to mainstream Christians, they still demonstrate the power of rituals and rites in the moment of death.

For instance, I’ve helped bedridden patients do such things as tape a crystal to their wrist, rotate their bed into a Feng Shui position, put a healing blanket on their bed or garlic underneath it. I’ve collected bones of the dead, feathers for the living, and even the placenta of a deceased baby.

Of course these rites don’t represent mainstream patients. The majority of the patients I visit are exemplified in someone I’ll call Mr. Stanley; a 76-year-old Korean veteran I met in the VA hospital three years ago.

Stanley’s heart was failing, and he was struggling to find breath as his tearful wife of 50 years kept trading glances between him and his heart monitor. At some point, she asked me to bless him. I thought back to my Baptist upbringing. We prayed for the sick but blessing someone was not a rite we practiced.

However, chaplains bring a nonjudgmental presence and deliver what people need in their moment of crisis, I wrote a blessing for him. I began by placing one hand on Stanley’s shoulder and holding the other open before me, as if I was expecting something to be placed in it.

“May God place you in his hand and hold you there.

May he pull you close to his heart.”

Cupping my outstretched hand over my own heart, I added:

“May you know the beating of God’s heart.
May your heart match the rhythm of his heart.
May his spirit fill your lungs with the healing breath of life.
May you know the calling of his direction.
May you hear his voice and find a peace that passes all understanding.
I pronounce this blessing on you in the name of the Father, son and Holy Spirit.”

As I looked across at Mrs. Stanley, I saw a certainty forming on her face that wasn’t previously there. She knew and I both knew that God had brought some dignity of purpose to the moment.

My blessing wasn’t terribly creative, and it might not have been BC (Baptist correct), but its power in the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley shouldn’t be disputed – even by Deacon Bob.

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