09-02-2008, 10:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Reisterstown, Maryland
Greetings to one and all
“You haven’t changed a bit,” I said as I pulled the old burgundy colored hymnbook from the shelf. I’m not in the habit of talking to books but it might be interesting if this particular hymnbook could talk back to me.
I have a collection of old hymnbooks that friends have given me or I have gathered from various places over the years but this hymnbook was special. The old hymnbook with an arched church window etched on the front and the words “Tabernacle Hymns” looked quite the same as it did the first time I saw it. An edge or two was frayed but it was still in good condition. I opened it up and inside the cover was the date, 1957, so it would have been fairly new when it was given to me. I remembered this hymnbook well because it was the very first one that I had used as I learned to play the piano. Tucked away in the back of that old hymnbook I found the numbers that I had written down and titles that I had underlined as I learned to play those hymns.
I was just a little girl about eleven years old and I was just beginning to learn to play the piano when Willie Slocum, the Sunday School Superintendent, came up to me after church and asked me to accompany the congregation for the opening of Sunday school that next week. I thought the idea was exciting but really scary.
I told him that I didn’t know very many songs yet but he assured me that it would be fine. He said that I would learn and he asked me what I could already play. Mostly I had played from my piano lesson books but I told him I could play number 111 in the hymnbook, At Calvary, pretty well because it was written in the key of C and had no flats or sharps. Without hesitation, Willie said that would be a great song to play next Sunday morning
I immediately went home and began practicing number 111 all week long until my family probably heard it in their sleep. I practiced it slow, I practiced it fast; I practiced it while singing, and I practiced it while Momma or Daddy sang it for me so I could get the feel of accompanying someone else.
The next Sunday came and I played number 111 and got through it just fine. Willie seemed pleased and told me to write down a list of songs that I could play and he would choose from them when he picked the hymns for Sunday school opening.
As time went on, I worked hard to learn more hymns to add to the list. I knew number 111 well by then and so did the congregation!
By the time I was a teenager, I was often playing for the worship service as well as for Sunday school. I am thankful for Willie, a Sunday school Superintendent, who believed in a little girl who he had never heard play a note. It probably wasn’t so unusual for Willie who had lived by faith for many years.
Although it was written in 1895, by William R. Newell, it’s melody and message is timeless and as needed today as much as ever. The refrain still plays in my mind as I often go back to number 111, back “At Calvary” where “mercy there was great and grace was free”.
As Willie would say, “Take your hymnbooks and turn with me to Number 111.”
~ Pamela Perry Blaine ~