Comment from Ken : This was one of the hymns we ALL sang at Hebron regardless of our faith. When you take this walk forget the part about what to do during a boring church service!!!!!
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.
Good evening, welcome for our walk on this Sunday night at seven o’clock.
Our home sits on the downside of a small hill and as the hill rises behind our house it suddenly drops away. As a matter of fact it is like a cliff behind our house and it reminds me of a place where we used to play as children in Melrose, Massachusetts, called Cedar Rock. At one time, here in Hopkinton, they removed part of the hill to sell as fill for new construction sites so our cliff was man made. But at this time of night when the sun is descending in the west trees on the other side of our hill, the cliff area does not block the sunlight. The trees on the very top of our property at this time of night look like beautiful cut out silhouettes. As the sun drops deeper and deeper in the west the trees grow darker and darker until they merge together in the blackness of night. When the trees are indistinguishable it is nearing the time to go to bed.
Years ago when I attended Hebron Academy in Maine all students were required to attend Sunday night chapel services. As the sun sets this evening I recall those Sunday evenings at Hebron. As this night darkens I think of two of the hymns we used to sing at the end of the Sunday Chapel service. One of my favorites was Day is Dying in the West. The other hymn we sang every Sunday night at the end of the service was Now the Day is Over. I still am able to remember the words of that hymn to this day. The following are a few of the verses of that hymn I recall tonight:
Now the day is over – Night is drawing nigh
Shadows of the evening – Steal across the sky.
Grant to little children – Visions bright of Thee
Guard the sailors tossing – On the deep blue sea.
Comfort every suffer – Watching late in pain
Those who plan some evil – From their sin restrain.
When the night is over – Then may I arise
Pure and fresh and sinless – In Thy holy eyes.
Now I must admit that after I wrote some of those words I had to look up the words of that hymn but for the most part I remembered the words correctly.
The Sunday morning services at a church on campus was attended by the Protestant boys. It was a boy’s school and we found the services were quite boring and we were far from respectful in our actions and attitudes toward the pastor. In fact at times a leader in the front pew would wink at us and then whatever he did we would do across the whole front row of the church. If he crossed his left leg over his right – the twenty of us in the front row would do the same. If he scratched his head with his hand all of us would scratch our heads. This would go on for quite a long time. In total disrespect, which others of us did not do – one student would visibly hold up a penny and drop it ceremoniously in the offering plate. One Sunday we were so noisy that the pastor leaned down during the Lord’s Prayer and told us to, “shut up.”
Do I need to inform you that I had no intention of becoming a pastor at that stage of my life. Later in life I was most grateful that I did not preach in a boy’s academy after I was ordained a pastor, however, if I had been called to serve in a boy’s academy I would have hoped my sermons would have been more interesting.
The Catholic boys were not a part of this heinous action for they had to be bused to a nearby Catholic Church and no one reported how they acted at Mass.
I look back in this age with amazement at the Sunday evening Chapel services that indeed had to be attended by all, that is all the students in the school no matter their religion. The beginning of that evening vesper service was singing hymn after hymn and then we would have an incredible speaker. One of the many speakers was a lawyer who defended the captain of the Titanic after its sinking.
We did not wish to miss chapel but looking back all the boys were made to participate in the singing of the hymns. This meant that even the boys of the Jewish faith were required to sing Christian hymns. As a matter of fact when this policy was challenged one of the Masters said that all should know those hymns popular in American society regardless of faith, and that all would continue to participate in the singing. That would never be today, today their would be a court case concerning religious rights.
At that academy chapel service we were one people respecting each other’s faith. We did not look at each other as different –we were protestant, catholic and Jewish boys all worshipping together singing songs in a unity and respect for our God. We go back here to a day when a man like Irving Berlin could write what is considered the best Christmas song ever because he loved the Christmas celebration even though he was of the Jewish faith. Today it appears legally we have to regard our differences rather that joining together in song that honors a divine God. No one was asked to confess Jesus Christ as savior as we sang together, we felt unity rather than a separation from each other. Some of the hymns chosen spoke of the Christ, but many more were more honoring the father God.
To this pastor at this stage of life hymns are a central part of his life. I have a whole collection of hymns on my telephone and I play them as I work in my shop or ride in my truck. God has become a close friend of mine since my life changed and I had to refrain from a very active ministry. Hymns for me give me strength and hope and the promise of a God who loves me in this life and surely in the life to come. When unable to sleep I find my mind recalling the days at Hebron, the singing of familiar hymns and the trust they build in a living caring God. Are hymns a part of your life? Do you know the words of many hymns? How very comforting a hymn can be as the sun sets on a day and one goes to bed trusting in God to watch over you until the morning comes.
Prayer; O God help us to return to a day when we can sing together in praise of You our loving God. Help us to find similarities with each other and not differences that can separate us. May we love our faith and learn and respect the faith of others by sharing in the knowledge of each others form of worship; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.,
And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.