This morning I was dozing as Sunday Hour was playing on Radio 2 and although I was not very awake, I felt as though I was back again as a child, as the program was about school memories or childhood memories of church. The hymn, ‘When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old,’ took me straight back to my junior school! However I also remember another hymn, which summed up the mystery of God for me we regularly sang; ‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise’, which I still value today.
As an 11 year old in the final year at junior school, I had the opportunity to spend a school week at Scargill House near Kettlewell and I found the experience uplifting, especially when the then warden described how climbing a mountain drew him closer to God, as he saw the magnificent scenery at the top; suddenly the struggle of the climb was worth all the effort and he likened the climb to the spiritual journey of faith and he taught us the following chorus. Even after 50 years that message and the chorus ‘Wide, wide as the ocean’ are still so important to me. ‘Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the heaven above deep, deep as the deepest sea is my Saviour’s love. I, though so unworthy Still am a child of his care, for his word teaches me, that his love reaches me everywhere.’ I can still remember the actions and how I loved it and still do.
It was also a time when the first people who I had known personally or knew as a famous person died or were killed. I really cried when I heard the same warden, who had inspired me that year, had fallen to his death on a mountain climb. Of course that same year President Kennedy was assassinated and I was shocked and upset, I remember. Also later when Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated a few years later I really cried again. It is funny what memories are invoked by hearing choruses. They also sang ‘Onward Christian soldiers, which reminded me of the way mum sang this when chasing us up to bed!
I was impressed too by the morning service from Brunswick Methodist Church Newcastle. A young man from Brighton came drinking in Newcastle and got separated from his friends. He lost his phone and wallet and some clothes and was being picked up by the police but people from the church told the police they would take care of him. They got clothes for him and fed him and looked after him until they successfully found his friends and reunited him with them. The young man was very grateful for their help and I am sure he will remember that help for a long time. Nobody knows when he or she might be in need; I always feel that ‘there but for the grace of God goes I.’
When we are at our lowest, whether we have brought it on ourselves or not we need that kind of love. I loved that message. It is a challenge to us all. Any of us can become homeless and unemployed especially those on low incomes who have nothing spare to save. That is one message from Songs of Praise as I am doing my blog; the bed for the night, and the meal set out properly as a dinner party shows those homeless people that they are people, not someone to be abused or ignored.
I am called like Jesus to love and serve those around and forgive those who seek to harm us, as a Spanish lady, also on Songs of Praise, did after being stabbed. It also showed the special relationship which developed between the young police officer who helped her; he leant her, his crucifix to sustain her as she arrived in hospital. Later he made her a wooden cross with the word love in its centre and regards her as his surrogate mother; she treasures that cross and also his friendship. I found these services each gave me something to remember and to challenge me.