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Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go
Anywhere he leads me in this world below
Anywhere without Him dearest joys would fade
Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid 

Chorus

Anywhere, anywhere.
Fear I cannot know.
Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.
 

Yesterday I read a blog by a fellow Episcopalian, Heidi Schott, that resonated deeply with my own life experience.  She was sharing about the closeness and depth of her relationship with her mother who had a life-threatening condition:

“I sat on her bed and sang all the old hymns I still knew by heart.
She pulled off her mask and whispered, “Sing ‘How Great Thou Art’”,
and I obliged the best I could.” 

I sang similarly for my mother near the time of her passing.  So, too, have others who have described to me their experience during vigilence and support of loved ones.

In the church of my childhood we had three weekly services where such hymns were learned.  Early on I began to harmonize to the words of favorite melodies and eventually I joined the more mature singers and soloists.  Sometimes I went with them to other churches for special events and everywhere we went these songs were known and sung and were the common and constant thread of our communal life.

In our rural Ohio valley churches, whether Methodist, Holiness, Pentacostal, Baptist, Quaker or other Great Awakening variety, there were certain common elements of our Christian faith tradition present:  always readings from the Psalms and the Testaments, always a time of personal and communal prayer, always a sermon based on the readings, and almost always an altar call. Even our programmed Quaker church in its quiet and extensive silences found time for these elements.  But always, always the hymns served as a well-spring of joy, guidance, stability and comfort in our worship together.

I have moved into a preference for Meetings that gather in silence.  Friends, in these Meetings often sing hymns at another time or on occasion when moved by the Light in the silence.  Still later in my life, I have come to appreciate the liturgy of the Episcopal church and its great hymns.  No matter though, wherever I may go, my heart sometimes returns to the words, comforting tones, and insistent gospel message of these hymns of my childhood. 

A Child of the King

My Father’s own Son, the Savior of men,
Once wandered on earth as the poorest of them;
But now He is pleading our pardon on high,
That we may be His, when He comes by and by.

I’m a child of the King,
A child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior,
I’m a child of the King.

All Things Are Ready, Come to the Feast 

All things are ready,” come to the feast!
Come, for the table now is spread;
Ye famishing, ye weary, come,
And thou shalt be richly fed.

A Pilgrim and a Stranger

A pilgrim and a stranger,
I journey here below;
Far distant is my country,
The home to which I go.
Here I must toil and travail,
Oft weary and opprest;
But there my God shall lead me
To everlasting rest.

It is a well-worn pathway;
A host has gone before,
The holy saints and prophets,
The patriarchs of yore.
They trod the toilsome journey
In patience and in faith;
And them I fain would follow,
Like them in life and death.

Who would share Abraham’s blessing
Must Abraham’s path pursue,
A stranger and a pilgrim,
Like him, must journey through.
The foes must be encountered,
The dangers must be passed;
A faithful soldier only
Receives the crown at last.

So I must hasten forward,-
Thank God, the end will come!
This land of passing shadows
Is not my destined home.
The everlasting city,
Jerusalem above,
This evermore abideth,
The home of light and love.

There I shall dwell forever,
No more a parting guest,
With all thy blood-bought children
In everlasting rest,
The pilgrim toils forgotten,
The pilgrim conflicts o’er,
All earthly griefs behind me,
Eternal joys before.

At Calvary (Heidi’s mother’s hymn…)

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary! 

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary.

Abide With Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

After

After the toil and the heat of the day,
After my troubles are past,
After the sorrows are taken away, I shall see Jesus at last.

He will be waiting for me, Jesus, so kind and true.
On His beautiful throne He will welcome me home
After the Day is through.

After the heartaches and sighing shall cease,
After the cold winter’s blast,
After the conflict comes glorious peace: I shall see Jesus at last.

After the shadows of evening shall fall,
After my anchor is cast.
After I list to my glorious peace, I shall see Jesus at last.

And, finally

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

And these are just the A’s!

may28_15.jpg

Bush’s bishops: Exit Iraq now

by Matthew Hay Brown, updated

President Bush’s church, long at odds with him on matters of public policy, called on the United States and its partners today to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq immediately.

The Bishops of the United Methodist Church approved a resolution calling on Bush, Congress and leaders of the other coalition partners to begin the “immediate safe and full withdrawal” of all troops, declare that there will be no permanent military bases in Iraq, increase support for veterans of all wars and initiate a reconstruction plan to address the humanitarian, social and educational needs of the Iraqi people.

The 125 current and retired bishops now meeting in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina represent more than 11 million Methodists worldwide – including the current occupant of the White House, a member of Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas.

In issuing the call, the bishops said their position is based on the denomination’s belief that “war is incompatible with the teachings and examples of Christ,” and on the call of Jesus Christ for “his followers to be peacemakers.”

“Every day that the war continues, more soldiers and innocent civilians are killed with no end in sight to the violence, bloodshed and carnage,” the bishops said in their resolution.

In a response, the White House said that Bush “believes our moral and strategic imperatives are one.”

“We must defeat the violent extremists who threaten the future of Iraq and threaten the United States,” spokesman Scott Stanzel said in an e-mail. “Our men and women in uniform are protecting Iraqi citizens from violent terrorists who want to indiscriminately murder innocent civilians by the tens, hundreds and thousands. Our effort to protect innocent life is a noble cause for which the American people should be proud.”

Methodists battle George W. Bush over SMU Library & ‘Freedom Institute’ (Excerpted)
By Bill Berkowitz
Online Journal Guest Writer
Oct 11, 2007, 00:39
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President Bush may think it’s a done deal, and First Lady Laura may be measuring for drapes. An architect has been chosen, and the project is proceeding to raise $500 million. And Karl Rove, who actually may be running the entire show, is also likely lining up a host of conservative think-tankers. Much of the media that covered the story only a few months ago appear to have lost interest. However, before the George W. Bush Library, with its attached public policy institute, are built at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, they must overcome rising objections within the nationwide United Methodist community.

On September 24, the Dallas Morning News reported, “Officially, no decision has been made on where the presidential library will be located, but SMU has long been considered the prohibitive favorite. An architectural firm was chosen last month to design the project.”

Earlier in the month, the Reverend Andrew J. Weaver, an ordained United Methodist minister and research psychologist living in New York City (who also writes for Media Transparency), and one of the organizers of the campaign to keep the Bush Library off the SMU campus, sent an “Open Letter” to the more than 10,000 signers of a petition urging them to keep working to make SMU a Bush-free zone.

Final vote on Bush Library yet to come, say opponents

On September 25, opponents of the Bush Library and think tank issued a press release calling on the United Methodist Church “to deny approval to Southern Methodist University to host the Bush complex.”

According to the press release, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church will meet in Dallas from July 15-19, 2008, and will vote whether to allow the Bush Library to be built on campus. United Methodist opponents of the Bush complex will be asking the 290 elected delegates — representing the 1.83 million United Methodists living in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Louisiana — to the Conference “to vote against this request.”

Bishop Joe A. Wilson of Georgetown, Texas, said that although “the 21 member Mission Council approved by a vote of 10-4 the use of the SMU property for the Library and partisan Policy Institute, this decision must be ratified by the larger Jurisdictional Conference . . .” Jurisdiction rules state that “all actions taken by the Council shall be valid and in full effect. . . . until the next regular session of The Conference.” Wilson pointed out that “plac[ing] a partisan policy Think Tank, with no oversight by the church and university, on the grounds of a United Methodist Institution, is an issue the Jurisdictional Conference must not take lightly.”

“The placement of the George W. Bush Library and the establishment of an Institute to promote the policies of this president at Southern Methodist University would be a tragedy,” said Bishop William Boyd Grove of Charlestown, West Virginia. “The policies of the Bush administration are in direct conflict with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church on issues of war and peace, civil liberties and human rights, care for the environment, and health care. SMU is a university of the church and is home to one of our outstanding theological seminaries. Its United Methodist identity and its moral authority would be seriously compromised were it to be identified with the policies of George W. Bush in this way.”

Bishop Kenneth W. Hicks of Little Rock, Arkansas, pointed out that in February of this year, a petition drive was launched by bishops, clergy and laity of the United Methodist Church that “call[ed] for the SMU trustees and the UMC to reject the Bush project. That petition now has the signatures of 15 UMC bishops and more than 10,800 Christians (mostly United Methodists) and persons of conscience. We are very much encouraged by the national and international response that we have garnered.”

Executive Order 13233

Opponents are “question[ing] the educational value of the Bush complex” given that earlier in his administration Bush issued Executive Order 13233, “which,” the press release notes, “provides former Presidents with virtually unlimited powers to deny or grant access to documents generated under their administrations.” The executive order extends these powers to a president’s heirs.

Recently, SB 866, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007, a bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, which would rescind Bush’s Executive Order 13233, was assigned a number, made its way to the Senate floor and has since been stalled by Republican Sen. Jim Bunning.

“Professors within the history department at Southern Methodist University, the future home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, may not all agree on the benefits or legitimacy of the library, museum and institute. However, they unanimously agree about SB 866 and the need to rescind the presidential order,” Laray Polkfor recently wrote in the Dallas Morning News.

Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of London, Ohio, observed that “last spring the Faculty Senate and the history faculty at SMU issued statements criticizing the Executive Order as incompatible with the goals of providing public and scholarly access to federal documents. It is a great concern when a large number of the faculty at a United Methodist university question the educational value of a project.”

Bishop Susan M. Morrison of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, pointed out that while she “respect[s] the office of the presidency, presidential libraries are created, partly, to celebrate the legacies of particular presidents [and] . . . Bush’s leadership has been so problematic and contrary to much of our Social Principles, it does not seem appropriate to place this library in the midst of one of our celebrated educational institutions.”

“It’s not a matter of censorship, but there’s a lot of resentment that this institute will be run without any oversight by the university,” the Rev. Weaver, who is spearheading the drive, told the Dallas Morning News.

….In an email, the Rev. Weaver pointed out, “The fact that the press is reporting that Rove will lead the effort to design and plan the freedom institute has increased the concern about and sentiment against the project among many in the church. Three additional bishops signed the petition this week. I believe we have the stronger arguments on our side and can win the debate in the church. And, if Bush bombs Iran, I doubt he will ever get an inch of church land to put anything on.”

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement and a frequent writer for Media Transparency. He documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory