Posts Tagged London

America for Me – Henry Van Dyke

Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)


‘TIS fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings,—
But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.

           So it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be,
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars!

Oh, London is a man’s town, there’s power in the air;
And Paris is a woman’s town, with flowers in her hair;
And it’s sweet to dream in Venice, and it’s great to study Rome;
But when it comes to living there is no place like home.

I like the German fir-woods, in green battalions drilled;
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!

I know that Europe’s wonderful, yet something seems to lack:
The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back.
But the glory of the Present is to make the Future free,—
We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.

           Oh, it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
I want a ship that’s westward bound to plough the rolling sea,
To the bléssed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars


A Presbyterian Minister, Henry Van Dyke is perhaps best known for The Story of the Other Wise Man and for the Hymn of Joy (“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, …”). He was also a prolific poet, and the above poem can be found in:

  • Van Dyke, Henry. The Poems of Henry Van Dyke. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911.“America for Me” was written in June, 1909.

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How Praying the Lord’s Prayer at St Paul’s Cathedral Changed My Life – Christian Today

Mitch Carnell 18 May 2016

It was the last day of our honeymoon and we were headed for St Paul’s Cathedral.

As Rev Tom Guerry said at our wedding, “Carol and Mitch have loved before.” Carol had survived a terrible divorce after 20 years of marriage and my Liz had died suddenly of a brain aneurism after 32 years of marriage. Neither of us had expected to find love again.

Although St Paul’s was crowded, we managed to get inside. What a breathtaking, soul-stretching, holy place! We were simply overwhelmed by its beauty.

Neither of us had ever experienced anything that came remotely close to this. Every nerve in my body tingled with the sheer grandeur of it all. All of the guidebooks put together could not prepare you for this. How could one possibly digest it all?

As magnificent as the cathedral is, and as elated as I was to be there, my real epiphany was yet to come.

At 11 am, the public address system came on. The priest introduced himself and then said, “At this time each day we pause and say together the ‘Our Father’ prayer.”

Then the most unbelievable thing happened. Voices belonging to people from around the world, of every language, of every colour and hue, every nationality, disabled and whole, male and female, child and adult, gay and straight, prayed aloud together, “Our Father”.

For the first time in my 65 years the full meaning of the opening words caressed my soul in a way I had never experienced before. Here in this ancient house of worship, in this ancient city with my new bride, the true meaning of “Our Father” coursed through my veins. I was awestruck. There was no turning back. It was the beginning of a new understanding of my journey of faith.

I could hardly contain the sensation of oneness in God that engulfed my entire being. I knew that my understanding of God had taken a quantum leap. “Our” took on a meaning far greater, far more profound than its three characters would signify. This must be what St Paul had felt on the road to Damascus.

As I struggled to comprehend this unexpected revelation and gain some perspective, my thoughts drifted back to my childhood. Incidents and experiences that had remained separate and unexplored for their meanings for all of these years began to come together and a pattern began to emerge.

Two years later I discovered a prayer by Pam Kidd in Daily Guideposts 2001 that expresses the same phenomenon: “Dear God, in my scariest moments, you point me to the place where, in your time, You fit the pieces of my life together into a perfect whole. Thank You.”

The pieces of my life were slowly coming together. I understood that my revelation at St Paul’s was not the result of an isolated incident but had been a lifetime in the making.

I have been in church all of my life and had become a Christian at 11 years old. I have prayed the Lord’s Prayer hundreds of times, but never had I been so captivated by that little word, “our”.

St Paul’s Cathedral is light years away from the small textile mill village church in South Carolina, USA, where I grew up during the days of racial segregation, but that church too played a major role in my understanding of who God is and who is in his family. Our Father: Discovering Family, is an unfolding of my spiritual journey. The process of reflection and writing it led me to a far richer discovery than I had imagined at the outset. 

Our Father: Discovering Family is available from the publisher, and in either paperback or ebook

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No, please, after you – by Rev. Mark Woods

Most of us are pretty lazy when it comes to national stereotypes. Mention a country, and a ready-made image of its inhabitants springs fully-formed to mind. Out of respect for the context of this column, I’ll refrain from giving any examples.

But in any case, even when they aren’t plain wrong, they’re a very blunt instrument. Anyone, in any country, can be kind and courteous; anyone can be mean and aggressive, or overweight, or unwashed, or whatever other jibe you want to throw out.

Does that mean that different societies have no individuality at all?  No, there’s a huge difference between French culture and German, for instance, or Russian and Italian. And even those categories are far too broad: in my own country, between a Rossendale farmer and a Newham hoodie, proud Englishmen both, there is a great gulf fixed of mutual incomprehension. 

So what about the famed British politeness? Well, it’s not entirely a myth, though we’re changing. Like the rest of the developed world, we’re living more quickly, we have less time – or think we do –  and less patience.

But there is, across most of our country, a basic civility, a willingness to help, and a certain habit of self-deprecation that I’ve always found rather appealing. We don’t trumpet our achievements, such as they are (see, there I go) and a recent survey has shown that the average Brit apologises seven times a day – rather high, most people would think, but we would say it’s only polite. And all of this is written, of course, under the provisos of the first paragraph: none of it is strictly true.

Where was this politeness, I wonder, a few weeks ago when parts of London and other cities erupted, out of the blue, in a frenzy of riots and looting? It was genuinely shocking, though one of our Baptist ministers with an ear to the ground said he’d thought that ‘something’ was coming. Most of us were taken completely by surprise. Our courts were crowded; large numbers of the looters were identified, and they are counting the cost of their new trainers and flat-screen TVs as guests of Her Majesty.

Well: see the first paragraph again. Stereotypes are lazy. People – even Brits – are sometimes greedy and feckless, and civilization, as C P Snow says, is just a coat of varnish. But I see two things here for further reflection.

First is the lesson of the riots themselves. Things became more important than people. For the sake of a few consumer goods, people were terrified, had their livelihoods destroyed and their homes burned. Politeness seems a frail bulwark to set against that sort of behaviour. But politeness is how you behave when you see the other person as a person, rather than as an obstacle to your enjoyment.

Second, though, is what happened afterwards. Broomstick armies took to the streets, determined to clear up the mess. People were outraged that such things could be, and – here is a prophecy, if you like – it’s not going to happen again. There was a reclamation of community from the wreckers. People were embarrassed, ashamed, and determined to say to the world, ‘Our city is not really like that at all.’

That gives me hope. In the end, the kind of character our society has is based on thousands of individual acts of will. There’ll always be those who choose wrongly, but it’s possible to achieve a critical mass of those who treat other people with dignity, respect and consideration, and that will shape how a nation sees itself, and how it’s seen by others. Some stereotypes are worth living up to. 

The Revd Mark Woods is editor of The Baptist Times, the UK’s Baptist newspaper


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