My grandparents lived in a white two story house with a nice sized front porch. I don’t know why I remember the steps up to the porch but they were a smooth white concrete with raised criss crosses for traction in winter months. That type of smooth concrete would have been wonderful for roller skating. There was a side door off the driveway with steps up to the kitchen or down the steps to the basement and if you were an adult you had to remember to duck before going down to the basement. There was a sun porch off the kitchen and going out that door took you straight into the backyard. I don’t remember playing very much in the backyard. There was a long sidewalk to the garage and the alley and halfway down there was an arch trellis over the walkway and to either side narrow flowerbeds of roses and rhubarb. In the summer I do remember summer evenings and the air filled with fireflies. The adults sat on lawn chairs while the kids captured fireflies in peanut butter jars. My grandparents lived a block and a half from the church they attended, Riverside Baptist. My grandfather would go early to church and many times I walked with him on Sundays. I looked forward to church at my grandparents because the church side door opened to the stairs of the basement which led to the Sunday School classrooms for the children. Those stairs were alive with happy feet making the loud noises of children scrambling down and up. I loved that noise and I can clearly recall the sound today. I knew down those stairs my cousins would be there. I never got enough time with them and looked forward to any and every opportunity to see them. When Sunday School came to an end we would rush up the stairs to the sanctuary and look for our family. When we came in from Houston and joined our grandparents, aunt and uncle and cousins, I loved that our family took up a whole row of those wooden theatre type seats. They were not fitted for finding a friendly lap in which to lay one’s head to sleep during the sermon.
What has made me think of that memory? Last night I went to the Hymn Sing that Gerald Ray hosts several times a year. It has been quite a few years since I have attended but the added incentive last night was my friend Lisa participating in the program. Just about every song we sang or enjoyed being played on the piano or organ or soloist sang, reminded me of so many memories, especially from childhood. My growing up years were difficult because I lived continuously in an atmosphere filled with fear. There isn’t any reason to go into details but believe me fear of life and death ran rampantly throughout the days, months and years of childhood. Last night the hymns gave me glimpses of in between times when I relaxed a little from the constant fear of life. The first hymn we sang last night was I Love To Tell The Story. In my mind I could hear my grandmother singing this song in church. She wasn’t the best singer but she made a joyful noise. We sang Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, Wonderful Words of Life, and I Will Sing of My Redeemer and those songs took me back to Westbury Baptist, the church we attended while growing up. It was a struggle for me there at Westbury for many reasons, but I remember lively hymns and choir numbers led by our music minister Ron Lowry. Pageant memories came back like a flood when we sang Fairest Lord Jesus. We sang that song in the scene of Jesus on the cross. I tried to catch Peggy’s attention when we sang Love Lifted Me and Standing on the Promises. We have rewritten those songs for Mildred and Gertrude thus, singing the real words is difficult and I kept my eyes glued to the program with the words. Memories of the 70’s came to me when we sang Because He Lives. Yes boys and girls back in the day the Gaither’s were contemporary Christian Music and there was a ruckus over singing this non hymnal song in church. We were destroying church music by letting this song be sung on Sunday night. Funny, now days, this song is a staple in traditional worship. We sang invitation songs last night, Jesus Paid It All, I Surrender All and The Old Rugged Cross. Nothing But The Blood, Victory in Jesus, I’ll Fly Away and When We All Get To Heaven were standard Sunday evening songs and we also sang one of my mother’s favorites, He Touched Me. In all the Gaither songs there is that Gloria Gaither moment when she says the words or tells a story with music gently played till the crescendo of her words. Thankfully, the soloist sang and didn’t talk in the middle of the song. Just not a fan of that. Gerald ended the evening with God Be With You Till We Meet Again and for all those years in choir, that is how we ended our Wednesday evening rehearsals.
There were so many other hymns sung by soloist or played by pianists and I took them all in, many times not singing up just letting those beloved words wash over my soul and renew my spirit.
After the past few weeks and finally the culmination of the APS investigation my tank empty but my hope filled to the brim. That can only come from the Lord. I didn’t know how much I needed those words and tunes to refresh weary emotions last night. I know many could say the same thing, the ministry of hymns in their lives but when I have attended Hymn Sing before, it was just to enjoy singing songs we don’t hear too much anymore and to spend time with friends. There was some ministry going on last night.