April 21, 2024

Call To Worship

Angels Are Singing: 39

Tillit S. “Ted” Teddlie (1885-1987) was one of the best-known and most naturally gifted songwriters among the Churches of Christ in the United States. By all accounts, and I have met several people who knew him personally, he was an equally fine Christian gentleman. His output of songs is certainly worth a post of its own, which (Lord willing!) I will get to someday.

Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

He’s My King: 219

A song which praises Christ as our King is “He’s My King” (#12 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #173 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by James Rowe (1865-1933). An immigrant to the United States from England, he was a prolific author of gospel songs, best known probably for his words to “Love Lifted Me.” The tune was composed by James David Vaughan, who was born in Giles County, TN, near Lawrence County, on Dec. 14, 1864. After studying at the Ruebush Kieffer Normal School, he became a music publisher, composer, and compiler of gospel songs in shaped notation. Beginning in 1890 through 1911, he produced gospel songs and songbooks under his own name, the first of which was Gospel Chimes. This song, “He’s My King,” was first published in his 1911 Hallelujah Voices.

     In 1891, Vaughan originated the idea of the male gospel quartet with his brothers Charles, John, and Will and in 1910 went on the road with the Southern Gospel Quartet to promote his songbooks. This move was highly successful and his sales doubled the next year, to 60,000 volumes.  After working as a teacher, he eventually moved to Lawrenceburg, TN, where in 1911 he founded the Vaughan School of Music and in 1912 he established the J. D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company, which by 1964 had issued 105 collections of music, mostly for gospel singing conventions.  This firm also sponsored singing schools and music normals to train singing school teachers, as well as publishing a trade journal, Vaughan’s Musical Visitor.

     In 1921 Vaughan expanded his business by opening Vaughan Phonograph Records, and in 1928 he built the first radio station in Tennessee, which was for the purpose of broadcasting his music. Later he opened branch offices in Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. The manager of the Jacksonville, TX, branch, Virgil O. Stamps, would eventually help to form the Stamps-Baxter Music Company. Another of Vaughan’s collaborations with Rowe that is found in many of our books is “God Holds the Future in His Hands.” Vaughan provided both words and music for a song, “I Need The Prayers,” that is found in Special Sacred Selections and Church Gospel Songs and Hymns. Some of our books have other songs which have music by him such as, “Just One Way to the Gate” and “I Feel Like Travelling On.” He died in Lawrenceburg on Feb. 9, 1941.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use among churches of Christ, “He’s My King” appeared in the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by Will W. Slater; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise, all edited by Alton H. Howard, and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

He Lives: 220

One of the most popular of 20th century songs, and not just for Easter, is the hymn “He Lives.” Written by Alfred Ackley in 1933, the song is also known by its first line, “I Serve a Risen Savior.”

“I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;

I know that He is living, whatever men may say;

I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer,

And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.”

Ackley, born in 1887 in Pennsylvania, showed great musical potential as a child. He was tutored by his musician father and then went to New York City to study and on to the Royal Academy of Music in London. There, Ackley played the piano and cello and showed great promise as a composer.

After completing his musical training, Ackley returned to the states to attend Westminster Theological Seminary in Maryland and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1914.

Ackley pastored in Wilkes-Barre and Elmhurst, Pennsylvania, before being called to a congregation in Escondido, California. For a few years he worked with evangelist Billy Sunday.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Sacred Music degree by John Brown University in Arkansas in appreciation for all his musical pursuits.

While in California in 1932, Ackley began witnessing a Jewish man who attended some of the evangelistic meetings. This young student kept saying, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?”

This bothered Ackley and it stayed on his mind. After waking early to prepare his Easter Sunday message, he was amazed to hear on the radio a famous liberal preacher in New York say, “Good morning. It’s Easter! You know, folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I am concerned, His body could be as dust in some Palestinian tomb. The main thing is, His truth goes marching on!”

Ackley’s anger at this was displayed as he threw the radio across the room, yelling, “It’s a lie!”

During the Easter service that morning, Ackley preached with strength and urgency about the reality of Christ’s Resurrection.

But later that night, he continued to dwell on his Jewish friend’s words and the sermon on the radio.

His wife told him it was time for him to do what he did best — write a song — and then he would feel better.

In his study, Ackley re-read the Resurrection account from Mark’s Gospel in the Bible, and soon the words began to pour from him. A few minutes later, he put music to the words, and answered the question, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?”

Communion Meditation

This Is My Father’s World: 669

What congregation had two successive ministers who wrote hymns that are contained in most North American hymnals? The answer: Brick Presbyterian Church, New York City.

One of the leading Presbyterian ministers of his generation, Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901) penned a hymn with such concrete language that even children can understand its message at a basic level. He followed Dr. Henry Van Dyke, author of the hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” (The UM Hymnal, no. 89), as the minister of Brick Presbyterian Church.

Babcock was born in Syracuse, N.Y., and was a graduate of Syracuse University. He continued his education at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York. After serving two congregations at Lockport near Lake Ontario and Baltimore, he assumed the pastorate at Brick Church. He died just a few months short of his 42nd birthday in a hospital in Naples, Italy, following a trip to the Holy Land.

Babcock was known both as a skilled amateur musician, playing the organ, piano and violin, and recognized as a university sportsman with achievements in swimming and baseball. He was an outdoorsman with broad shoulders and a muscular build. One of his poems gives insight into his approach to life:

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift,
Shun not the struggle; face it;
’Tis God’s gift.

Our hymn was published posthumously in Babcock’s Thoughts for Every-Day Living (1901) though it had probably been written much earlier. While a pastor in Lockport, N.Y., near Lake Ontario, hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck noted Babcock’s practice of “taking morning walks to the top of a hill north of town where he had a full view of Lake Ontario and the surrounding country.” It was said that he had a frequent expression before leaving for these walks, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.”

The original poem was composed in 16 four-line stanzas, each beginning with “This is my Father’s world.” One of Babcock’s friends, Franklin Shepherd (1852-1930) adapted an English folk song inserting portions of Babcock’s text into three, eight-line stanzas. The hymn in this form first appeared in the composer’s hymnal Alleluia, a Presbyterian Sunday school book published in 1915. The tune name, TERRA BEATA, means “blessed earth” in Latin.

The first two stanzas are unusually concrete in their references to nature—“rocks and trees, of skies and seas”; “birds…, the morning light, the lily white… rustling grass.” For Babcock, nature was not only a visual spectacle, but an aural experience. Perhaps the author’s skill as a musician contributed to the many auditory images: “listening ears” and “nature sings” and “birds their carols raise” and “rustling grass.”

The “music of the spheres” mentioned in the first stanza is a concept borrowed from Greek philosophy. This is the idea that the most perfect sounds cannot be heard by human ears. They take place in the orderly movements of planets and stars. The actual sounds that we hear on earth are but a weak imitation.

The author shifts his focus in the final stanza from describing the visual and aural beauty of nature to the reality that all is not right with the world. With a strong sense of Presbyterian providence, Babcock observes “that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” The closing couplet, posing and answering a question, offers hope: “Why should my heart be sad?… God reigns, let the earth be glad.”


They’ll Know We Are Christians: 679

“They’ll Know We Are Christians” is a hymn written by Father Peter Scholtes in the 1960s for an Ecumenical event.

By the 1980s, Scholtes left the priesthood. He’d go on to become a business management consultant and author. He died in 2009.

The title of the song originates in a phrase that non-believers used to describe Christians believers of early Church: “Behold, how they love one another.”

Announcements & Closing Prayer