I remember as a kid, the age of about 4 or 5, being in my old church, looking over at a very very elderly man sitting next to me as the congregation sang "The Old Rugged Cross". I remember watching him as he sang, somehow it seemed as though he understood. He understood the story of the old rugged cross. I did not know who he was or even if I ever saw him again but just looking at that old man and hearing that song for the first time made an impression on me as a small child. Generations apart, yet as a child I marveled at him and remembered the words to that old song.
I also will never forget Dorothy Cleveland. Always smiling. I was told she was born on a missionary trail in Africa. I never once saw that lady open up a hymn book but she sang every word of every song. I always wondered about that. Mrs. Cleveland used to look across the room during the service and give me the biggest smile. I knew that there was one person who looked right through me and loved the person deep inside regardless of my childish faults.
It was a small church but every Wednesday night we would gather. Kids and adults. The elderly and the very young. We gathered for prayer. We sang the old hymns. I wasn't ushered off to some children's program. I was there with these old people. I know it was boring, I know kids can't relate to that, I know I would wander off into la la land and would become totally bored with church and when I get older I will have no interest in God because of those old songs that don't relate to the youth and the boring speakers, you know how we MUST BE RELEVANT etc...blah blah blah. You've heard it all before. We've all heard it all before by the experts. However, somehow something stuck. As a child I witnessed a faithfulness to God in the elderly
I know there is nothing inherently sacred with old hymns. It's not really about the hymns. It's more about a truth which transcends generations. A truth which unites generations. The songs that I saw Dorthody Cleveland sing without ever opening a hymn book were the same songs that I was learning as a child. It was the same songs that my mother and father were singing. It was the same songs that Dorthothy Cleveland's parents and grandparents were singing as she looked up at them as a child, studying their faces the same I had done when I was a child. There was a heritage. There was a legacy.
I can't understand what we are doing. Why are we so eager to get rid of the hymns which have lasted from generation to generation to generation? Aren't we supposed to get rid of the things which are a hinderance to our faith being built up? I guess our leaders know better.
Also, I have to wonder, why are we so sure that we have to separate the old people from the young ? For crying out loud, isn't there any value in our young children and teenagers being in the same room as the older people ? Do we think it's right to just throw out the value and spiritual wisdom and stability the kids can learn from being with, worshiping with, even participating in Bible studies with the elderly ?
Some of my fondest memories as a child learning about this marvelous faith in Christ was the interaction I had with the elderly. Some of the richest and most spiritual acts of faith I saw demonstrated as a child were manifested in the character and actions of the elderly.
I learned from them. I sat listening to them, silent. I sat there and did not say a word. I listened. I learned. I remembered.
"Blest Be the Ties That Bind"...every Wednesday night, as we ended our prayer meeting, we would all hold hands in one big circle and sing that old hymn. I look forward to that day when we will sing that song again together, the old and the young...as one."Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.
We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again."