Friday, August 29, 2008

Note on an Experiment

My daughter tells me that my blogs are too long. Cutting them into separate posts has problems too. The blog on Rogers Heights seems out of order. Either you read the second part first or you have to scroll down to the first part and then scroll up to the second part.

I discovered something about the way blogs are posted at Blogspot that I think will allow me to post one a day, but also allow a future reader to read the posts in order.

This is an experiment.

If it works.

If not, I’ll have to start over.

Wish me luck.

My Favorite Hymns: Foreword

I wanted to write a blog about my favorite hymns, but choosing my favorites among all the hymns I love proved difficult. Who could not like "In the Garden" or "Sweet Hour of Prayer"? Who would not be stirred by "God of Our Fathers, Whose All Mighty Hand,"? (#14) Who could not feel the joy when we exalt "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today"? (#13) Or the sorrow in "Were You There?"(#17) Who does not feel the acceptance in "Jesus Loves Me"? (#15)

I can’t forget “God of Grace and God of Glory,” (#18) “Faith of Our Fathers,” “Come, Thou Almighty King,” “All Creatures of Our God and King,” “I Know My Redeemer Lives,” (#19) “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” “Nearer My God to Thee,” “Rise up, O Men of God,” “Bread of the World in Mercy Broken,” “Break Thou the Bread of Life,” (#20) or “Rock of Ages.”

At Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, we sang “Fairest Lord Jesus,” “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian,” and “This Is My Father’s World and felt the love. Even so, much as I love them, these don’t quite make it to the top of my list of favorites

I have a large number of CDs of The Cedarmont Kids© singing all the hymns and Sunday School songs that I loved as a child. I look over the indexes and think, “Oh, yes, I remember this. I loved it.” If I tried to list them all, this would be merely a roll call of great hymns.

Then there are some new hymns that I have come to appreciate. Notably, “Shout to the Lord,”(#16) “Awesome God,” and “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” fill me with delight.
I especially like “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” (#12) The sentiment so exactly captures one of my beliefs – that it isn’t so much what the different denominations believe as how well we exemplify Christianity in our lives. How well we walk the walk, not how well we talk the talk.

Looking back on my teaching career, I am proudest that my students told me they knew I was a Christian by how I treated them. I never preached. Readers of my blogs know more about what I believe than they did, but the students told me that I was fair, that I looked for and saw the good in them, that I believed in them, that I was Christian. We lead best by example, not by force, not by words, by our love.

Still even though there are many hymns I love, I do have some favorites.

11. His Eye Is on the Sparrow:
Okay, I never said I’d narrow it down to 10. Given what I’ve said, how could a hymn that reads: “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free...” not be one of my all time favorites. There is great comfort in “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” Some might feel spied on, but I feel protected. I love this hymn; I can’t omit it.
Words: Civillia D. Martin
Music: Charles H. Gabriel

Tomorrow I’ll list number 10 through 7.

My Favorite Hymns: Beginning in the Middle of the List

This part covers the tenth to the seventh on the list of my favorite hymns.

Some may wonder why I am writing this. I've wondered that myself. The hymns are a large part of the spiritual journey of my life. I want to document this part and move on. The order may change. I may learn a new hymn and have it move upward on my list. Ten years ago, "Give Thanks" or "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love" wouldn't have been on the list because I hadn't heard or noticed them. Things change. Life changes. Overall, though, this list hasn't changed a lot --new additions, maybe-- old favorites stay.

10. Blest Be the Tie That Binds:
I wrote about what this hymn means to me and to the life of the church in the blog on Rogers Heights, so I won’t repeat what I said.
Words: John Fawcett
Music: Arr. from Hans G. Naegeli by Lowell Mason

9. Morning Has Broken:
Cat Stevens first introduced me to the lovely hymn, “Morning Has Broken.” Every day is “... like the first morning.... God’s re-creation of the new day.” There is perhaps in me a remnant of the American Indian custom of greeting the dawn with prayer. This song – and to a lesser extent, “When Morning Gilds the Skies,” -- are prayers of praise and thanksgiving for each new day. It is good to remember Who gives them to us.
Words: Eleanor Farjeon
Music: Gaelic Melody: Bunessan, arr. by David Evans

8. Give Thanks; We Gather Together; Let All Things Now Living; Come, Ye Thankful People, Come; O, Be Joyful in the Lord:
This is more of a category than a single selection. I never said I was limited to individual songs either. This group of hymns is about thankfulness. I’ve preferred Thanksgiving to Christmas for a long time. There are no great expectations for Thanksgiving to live up to, just a peaceful time to count our blessings.

“Give Thanks” is my favorite among the new music. It is a simple song, but so moving.
Words and music: Harry Smith

“We Gather Together” is not strictly a song of thanksgiving, but I have always grouped it with the hymns of thankfulness. The last line of the first verse “He forgets not his own” is the promise that we will never be lost to God. The last line of the third verse, “Oh, Lord, make us free.” Our freedom comes from the Lord, let us never forget.
Words: Anonymous, Tr. by Theodore Banker
Music: Netherlands folk song, Arr. by Edward Kremser

“Let All Things Now Living” is also based on a traditional folk melody, Welsh, this time. “His banner is o'er us, his light goes before us,.... As forward we travel from light into light.” We have much to be thankful for.
Words: Katherine K. Davis
Music: The Ash Grove, a traditional Welsh melody.

“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” exudes the joy of the harvest safely gathered. Those of us raised in cities can feel only a pale echo of the relief when the crop is stored and the coming winter provided for, but in my own life, I can remember a few times of feeling -- for a short while -- that everything was well. That condition never lasted for long, but then, it didn’t for the farmers either. Meanwhile, it is a wonderful feeling.
Words: Henry Alford
Music: Charles J. Elvey

Finally, “Oh Be Joyful in the Lord” from Psalm 100. I haven’t been able to find a source for this. Apparently Psalm 100 has been set to music several times. I learned it from sheet music; I think it is not a hymn, per se, but an anthem. I’ve searched my sheet music and can’t find it, so it may have been lost with so much else along the way. The words are an adaptation of the psalm. The version I like may be by Handel.

It is a song of praise and thanksgiving, of taking joy in the Lord.

7. Joy to the World:
This is a traditional Christmas song, but I remember once at summer camp, the leader suggested that we sing it. I realized then that “Joy to the World” is a universal hymn not just a Christmas one. On the other hand, in two Christmas plays I’ve directed, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson and a “Wondrous Event” by yours truly, we ended by singing “Joy to the World.” I told the children that I didn’t care if they sang the right pitch, I didn’t care if they were together, I wanted to hear a shout of “Joy.” And I did.
Words: Isaac Watts
Music: George R. Handel

On that note, I’ll leave you for today. To be continued tomorrow:

My Favorite Hymns: Second Part of the List

6. Amazing Grace:

I don’t remember singing this hymn in my childhood, but I was introduced to it later. It is one of America’s greatest and most beloved hymns. Our own unaided efforts are not enough to save us. We cannot work enough, or even believe enough, but God can always find us. We triumph by his Grace. “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace has brought me safe this far, And grace will lead me home.” Yes.
Words: John Newton
Music: Early American Melody, Arr. Edwin O. Excell

5. Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee:

This hymn from the “Hymn to Joy” by Beethoven is probably the best piece of music in the list – and the only one that justifies being played on an organ. It is here by virtue of its shear beauty.
Words: Henry Van Dyer
Music: Ludwig Van Beethoven

4. The Doxology and Gloria Patri: Every Sunday, we sang these two hymns as responses.

Gloria Patri:
This is again a beloved promise: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end, Amen, Amen.”
Words: from the Latin
Music: Traditional

The Doxology:

When my father was stricken with Parkinson’s disease and unable to communicate or control much, to the very end, he could still join in when the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer. I believe that the last song I will ever be able to sing is the Doxology:
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen
Words: Thomas Ken
Music: Attributed to Loys Bourgeois

3. O, God, Our Help in Ages Past:

I really can’t give a reason for this choice. I just like it, okay? There is truly no accounting for taste.

The third verse starts, “Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame....” Every time I see tiers of hills or mountains stretching to the horizon, I am reminded of this line.

The fourth verse is “A thousand ages in thy sight, Are like an evening gone; Swift as the watch that ends the night, Before the rising sun.” I remember how shocked, SHOCKED, I was the first time I learned that some people still took seriously the man who counted up the ages of everyone in the Bible and arrived at a date of creation. (Some year in the 4000’s B.C. In October, I believe.) At a very young age, I understood the meaning of allegory. “A thousand years is but a day unto the Lord.” (2nd Peter 3:8) How can we presume to understand time the way God does?
Words: Isaac Watts
Music: William Croft

2. The Lord’s My Shepherd:

This version of Psalm 23 has everything, a lovely melody and probably the world’s favorite psalm. I don’t know why it isn’t sung more often than it is, but the way the words are arranged to fit the melody may put people off. Personally, I have no preference for “to lie down” over “down to lie.” But possibly it reminds some of the convolutions their English teaches put them through in order to not end with a preposition. (A rule that doesn’t work in English like it does in Latin.) The odd thing is that a later line ends with the preposition “by” in order to rhyme with “lie.” Go figure. I love the music and the psalm, enough reason for its placement second to the top of this list.
Words: Psalm 23
Music: Jesse Seymour Irving

Tomorrow: My Favorite Hymn

My Favorite Hymn

1. Once to Every Man and Nation:
“Once to Every Man and Nation” is my favorite hymn. I remember the first time I heard it in church. I was about 10. Every Sunday for weeks, I would look it up and devour the words and the music. Even today, my hymnal falls open automatically to this hymn.

The words came from a longer poem by James Russell Lowell pruned and set to a Welsh hymn melody. James Russell Lowell was a descendent of one of the most influential New England families. Later off-shoots of the family include poets, Amy Lowell and Robert Lowell and astronomer Percival Lowell.

This is the most difficult of all of the discussions to write. This hymn means so much to me.
Words: James Russell Lowell
Music: Welsh Hymn Melody

I’ll go back to the first verse later.

Second verse:
Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust.
Ere her cause bring fame and profit
And ‘tis prosperous to be just.
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside.
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.

This history of the world is replete with examples of people standing for truth. Galileo was believed to have whispered “Earth still revolves around the sun,” even as he was forced to recant. Luther was tried by the church for his attempts to reform it. In our own time, we have the example of the resistance in Europe during WWII who risked everything, including their lives and families to stand against the Nazis, for the truth.

Third verse beginning at line 5:
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still and onward,
Who would keep abreast of truth.

A number of customs that were observed in Biblical times are no longer. As situations changed, God’s law changed. The principles never do, just the law. Paul spends some parts of his letters explaining how to be a slave and still be a Christian. We came to feel that slavery itself was wrong. Jacob had 2 wives and 2 concubines. We no longer allow plural marriage. His two wives were sisters, a situation that was later outlawed. Our understanding of God and what He wants from us has grown even from the time of Christ. Christ taught what He could in His time on earth and left us with principles to guide us in the future, but to keep abreast of truth we must labor on.

Fourth verse:
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ‘tis truth alone is strong:
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future
And, behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above His own.

The first part of this verse expresses our hope that truth will triumph. Looking back, after long battles, truth has won, not easily, but it has won. The rest of the verse sums up the sentiments expounded in “We Gather Together.” I like both this verse and the hymn for the same reason; I believe God will support us, keep watch over us, forget not His own.

The first verse:
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side:
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.

This was the verse that caught my attention. Most of us who have been baptized (or confirmed) believe that we have made this choice. And for the most part, we have. That is what it means to be a believer, to affirm our belief.

But from the far side of my life, I wish it were that simple.

I think that we have to keep on choosing, day by day. There are many challenges in our lives, and sometimes we don’t make quite the right choice, but we have to pick ourselves up and try the next day to do better, to make the right choice. It never gets any easier either. I wish it did.

I think now that the choice I made when I was baptized was to keep choosing as best I could the side of truth.

Tomorrow, some final thoughts.

My Favorite Hymns: Final Assessment

With great difficulty, I pruned my list to 25.

What have I gained out of all these hymns?

In my young and middle adulthood, I could learn any hymn in three verses. The first verse, I followed along. The second verse, I sang. The third verse, I sang out, I had it.

Now I can’t sing the even ones I love.

Do hymns influence what we believe? The elders chose hymns each Sunday to support their message. I don’t think that the hymns led me so much as reinforced my beliefs, but to have connected so quickly to “Once to Every man and Nation” I must have already believed a lot of the words. That’s pretty advanced thinking for a ten-year-old, but it is the thinking my church elders led me to. These are the hymns that still speak to me, the ones that I still hear.

The Final List:
20. “Break Thou the Bread of Life
19. “I Know My Redeemer Lives
18. “God of Grace and God of Glory
17. “Were You There?
16. “Shout to the Lord
15. “Jesus Loves Me
14. “God of Our Fathers, Whose All Mighty Hand
13. “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
12. “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love
11. “His Eye Is on the Sparrow
10. “Blest Be the Tie That Binds
9. “Morning Has Broken
8. “Give Thanks; We Gather Together; Let All Things Now Living; Come, Ye Thankful People, Come; O, Be Joyful in the Lord
7. “Joy to the World
6. “Amazing Grace
5. “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
4. “The Doxology and Gloria Patri
3. “O, God, Our Help in Ages Past
2. “The Lord’s My Shepherd
1. “Once to Every Man and Nation

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How to lose a customer gave a demonstration this week of how to lose a customer.

I have done business with them for 10 years. One of the customer service representatives noted that there were 36 previous orders. This does not make me their best customer; it does make me a steady customer. Looking back, in 1998 I placed one order, the next year none, the next year three, but the year after that only one again. I believe that I placed other orders, but due to variations in the spelling of my name, they aren’t on here. However, to arrive at a total of 36 toward the end I was ordering steadily.

Essentially, Amazon built up a customer relationship, and then in one four day period, destroyed it.

To go back a little ways, the school my grandson attended had a magazine drive. Like any good grandmother, I bought magazines. Some I dropped after a year, some, I continued the next year. Last year, he no longer attended that school, so I renewed some of the subscriptions at Still no problem.

This year, I attempted to renew some of those, a couple of others that I subscribed to because they had special low introductory rates, and a couple of others that would expire later in the year. At Thirteen in all.

The problem: Amazon charged my credit card THIRTEEN times. After the first four, the credit card clearing house refused any additional charges. I am not faulting the credit card company. They acted to protect me. They had no idea what had happened: was my credit card stolen and being used fraudulently, was Amazon sending a whole series of orders under the same number when they should have been sent under different numbers. The clearing house had no way of knowing.

The worst was yet come. The clearing house blocked all transactions on my credit card.

I sent an email to Amazon. The response I got was to contact the magazines after I had “...successfully paid for your magazine subscription order....” (sic) Needless to say, this was no help. Parenthetically, I have almost never gotten any assistance from emailing a company. They seem to have a lot of stock email responses equivalent to “the cockroach letter” triggered by key phrases. I can’t ever remember actually getting any assistance from an email, but there is the possibility that once upon a time, I did. So I won’t say never.

Then I called Amazon.

And was forced to listen to them explain that I would get faster service if I sent them an email and that most questions could be answered by their help section. My feeling is that most people give up after getting one of those non-response emails or trying to find an answer on their help section. This way the company can go on its merry way and maybe lose some business, but hoping that people will forget that they had a problem and continue to do business with them. No pain for them. But no gain either.

The first so-called “customer service” representative did nothing but bleat “I’m sorry” and “I apologize.” She also claimed to have fixed the problem, but I knew all she had done was resubmit the order; I asked to speak to her supervisor. The only thing she did made things worse.

Note to companies: If a customer asked to speak to a supervisor, put one on the line. Do not put customers on hold until the system times out. Do not tell customers that there are no supervisors. Do not hang up. These strategies only make a dissatisfied customer more dissatisfied. The first representative did the first of these strategies. Later, several other representatives used others.

Some representatives said that if we got disconnected they would call back. They didn’t.

Note to companies: If you say you’ll call, call back.

Meanwhile I am getting emails from Amazon telling me that my credit card had been rejected and to please give them a different credit card number. I suppose that they wanted to mess up two accounts rather than just one.

I finally took the step of canceling the remaining parts of the order that had not processed. I did this because Amazon was making no effort to resolve the situation. The only possibility I could see was that if they tried to bill my credit card again it would be an endless round of the same problem.

Some of the representatives tried to tell me that I should have known that they would charge my credit card THIRTEEN times because in some obscure part of their directions it says that they won’t charge the credit card until delivery. I replied that I had in the past ordered an item that was temporarily out-of-stock and my credit card had not been charged until they were able to ship it. I had no way of knowing that this meant they would charge my credit card THIRTEEN times for this order.

Ironically, two of the magazines that did go through were the only two I could find the subscription renewal cards for.

As of Sunday, every time I didn’t get any assistance from calling them, I cancelled one of the magazines that had gone through. As of now, I am only keeping one of the subscriptions. Before anyone did anything to actually clear up the problem, i.e., faxing an explanation to the credit card company, I had to threaten to cancel the last remaining subscription and a previous unfilled order.

Sending an explanation to the credit card company was the first and most important thing I asked Amazon to do.

What did I expect? Well, first I expected them to send an explanation to the credit card company. Second, I expected them to repackage the order over several days so that it would go through. Had they done these two steps immediately, instead of bleating that they were sorry and stonewalling and hanging up, they would still have a steady customer.

Note to businesses: First, fix the problem; then say you’re sorry.

The latest is that on the fourth day of this ordeal, I received an email that I was getting a refund of $2.83 on an order that was almost a year old. I called to find out what was going on. I had not ordered anything that was $2.83. I was told that the price of something on the old order had dropped and they were adjusting it. The order was so old, I was pretty sure this wasn’t true. Then I was told that I had missed an issue and the magazine was refunding the price of that issue. I know what magazines do when an issue is returned. The magazine puts a hold on the subscription and waits for the subscriber to contact them. They do not issue a refund.

Amazon had the unmitigated gall to lie, rather than admit the truth – that they had messed up again. I called the magazine and found that their claims were not true.

Note to businesses: If you are going to lie, don’t lie about something that can be checked.

The final blow was an email follow-up to the original non-responsive email that was –non-responsive. Darn those customers, always getting in the way, expecting customers service.

I am not saying that I won’t order from Amazon again. If I exhaust all other possibilities, I may. BUT I’ll look everywhere else first, instead of going to them first.

My guess is that businesses think that if they lose a dissatisfied customer that will pick up other business’s dissatisfied customers. That dog will only hunt for a short while. Then it gives up and lies panting in the grass looking like it is saying “what?”

Take Sprint, for example. Their customer service was awful. I know because I’ve been a customer of theirs for eight years. That is also about to change. They have been losing ground in sales and also have been rank very low in customer service. Finally one of the highly paid executives noticed this and thought “well, gee, maybe we should improve customer service.”

The last time I had to call them and mentioned in passing that as soon as my current contract expires I am going to change providers, they informed me that they are trying to improve customer service. Too late. At this point, they would have to provide extraordinarily outstanding customer service for me to even consider staying with them. Which, I may add, they didn’t during that last call.

Businesses sometimes have the attitude that customers leave the first time something goes wrong. Most people will give a business another chance but will leave if the problem isn’t fixed.

Here is how to lose a customer:

First, make a mistake. If you never do that, you’ll never have a problem.

But since that is unlikely, the second thing to do is to claim you can’t do anything about it, refuse to try, and bleat that you’re sorry.

Next, refuse to put the customer through to a supervisor. Supervisors have more experience and often know ways to solve problems that the representatives do not. That is why they are supervisors. Correctly handled, everyone gains, the representative gains from learning, the customer gains from having the problem solved and the company still has a customer.

Finally, hang up on the customer.

Repeat endlessly.

Soon, you too will be losing business.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rogers Heights Christian Church 1946-2007, Part 2

One of the reasons I remember the controversy about building a new sanctuary as opposed to enlarging the old one is that I was actually eligible to vote. I was baptized on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, by Lloyd Lambert.* I was 11 years, 8 months and 17 days old. This made me a member in good standing of the congregation; I could vote on the issue.

My parents wanted me to wait until I was 12, but in most of our churches there is a class in late winter for children wishing to be baptized at Easter. The tradition is that we make our “Confession of Faith” on Palm Sunday and are baptized on Easter. Not everyone does it this way, I had been lobbying to be baptized for two years prior. My parents gave in rather than make me wait another year until I was past my 12th birthday. I’m glad that I did though. Judi writes in her blog ( that she was baptized at Eastside Christian the following year because the sanctuary was torn up. It is the baptism itself that is important, of course, but still... I’m glad I talked them into it.

Five things I remember best from Rogers Heights:

1. Food
We had Fellowship dinners regularly. Probably once a month. The food was wonderful. Of course, it was plain, simple, midwestern fare, lovingly prepared. Nothing exotic. I think they call it comfort food now, and it is a heart-surgeon’s nightmare, but oh, my, it was good.

In the summers, we had ice cream socials. Home made ice cream, often hand cranked, accompanied by light fluffy cakes and pies with crusts to die for. We ate dinners in the fellowship hall, but the socials were held outside. I remember at least once, but probably more often, table set up on the side of the church where the parking lot is in Judi’s pictures before the three buildings were joined. The rich, cold ice cream melted in the summer heat. My mother’s ice cream recipe called for real cream and I think some of others used eggs. Plural. I’ve lived through a lot of hot summers since; nothing eases the heat like those summer evenings at church eating homemade ice cream.

I have a cookbook from those days written by the Christian Women’s Fellowship of the church. It is a treasure.

But also, I always looked forward to Vacation Bible School every summer partly because we got Koolaid. At my house we drank milk, water, fruit juice, (only for breakfast) unsweetened tea, and on rare occasions, lemonade. We didn’t get Koolaid even as a special treat.

2. Vacation Bible School
Another reason I liked Vacation Bible School was the craft projects. We did things like braiding lanyards and the like. One in particular has stuck with me as a kind of a question that I have never been able to answer. We took a piece of copper foil and embossed a design on it. I remember particularly a cowboy riding a bucking horse. I thought it looked great, but then, we wiped on some kind of coating that darkened the crevices making the design stand out more. Then, even though I thought it looked great at that stage, we did something else to it. And it looked great.

The question I have never answered is how does the artist know when something is finished? I know now the good ladies running the craft projects had some kind of kit that gave them explicit directions, but I didn’t know that then. I remember watching William Alexander’s Art classes on PBS and having the same question. At every stage it looked fine to me, so how did he know where to continue and when to stop. I’m always as afraid of going on and on until the project is ruined as I am of stopping before it has reached it maximum beauty. I still don’t know, but I think a lot of artistic a
bility is in knowing where to stop.

At Vacation Bible School, we sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “This Is My Father’s World.” We heard stories about children in the Bible and stories about our foreign missions. We had extended contact with the women of the church. Now we call them “mentor" and say they were mentoring us.

In the area at left, before we built the part that joined the three buildings,
(the higher roof line) we held Vacation Bible School.

3. Music
Sunday church services for me have always been about the music. I loved the singing. I sang in the choir as a teenager. I am working on a blog about my favorite hymns which I will post later. When I went to the Phillips University Centennial, I noted the beauty in the voices of people who just grew up singing in church.

I don’t think we had an organ in the early years. That suited me; I’ve never liked draggy old organs any way. My father grew up in the Church of Christ, our sister denomination. One of the causes of the schism between us -- we came form the same roots, the Campbell-Stone movement -- was the use of instrumental music. Some have down-played that division saying that the Churches of Christ in the beginning were making a virtue of necessity, but my grandfather truly believed that it was wrong to have instrumental music in the church. I will say this, Church of Christ services were beautiful, a capella voices rising straight to heaven.

Every year at Easter, we sang “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” and our voices carried such joy, such unforgettable joy.

We always sang “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” at the end of the service. I think that it helped to bind us together as a fellowship, as a congregation. Even those of us who were on the fringe of the circle were still tied to it. Ties? No, ropes, ropes as thick and strong as steel cable.

I still love hymns.

4. Bible
At Rogers Heights I got a thorough grounding in the Bible. We believe that the Bible was written at different times by different people. I noticed that Judi referred to it as a “library.” That is the way I have also always understood it. The Old Testament includes some history, some law, some myth, (yes, some myth) some sermons, some hymns, a collection of sayings, some poetry, even a couple of novels, and some writings that were found to be generally inspiring. It is a collection of books that the people found useful in their spiritual journey through life.

I believe that starting with Abraham it is basically true. There is some mythesizing, some “George Washington chopping down the cherry tree,” but it includes stories that aren’t particularly flattering to the leaders. I admire that kind of warts-and-all recording of history. That is part of why I believe it is true. Another thing I’ve noticed about the Old Testament is that it is the version of the rabbis who wrote it. Other people who were around at the time may well have had other versions of what occurred. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it happened, I just think the story might have been slanted a little different.

Thomas Campbell, one of the founders of our movement, said, "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent." That pretty much sums it up. But of course, you have to know a lot about Bible to know where it speaks.

Most of all, I remember the people

Sometime after my aunt left us to continue her education at the University of Arkansas, my parents hired a couple of the teen age girls from the church to babysit. I wonder if the woman besides Judi who wrote a comment to the Tulsa World article was one of those teenage-girls. ( If so, she may the one I owe an apology. My sister and I were little angels for one of the sitters, but for some reason, we were as bad as we knew how to be for the other. I’m not sure why. I think we had heard stories from other children about defying the sitter and had to try them out. It was a valuable lesson to me as a teacher, sometimes kids just decide to act up. Don’t take it personally. I still wish I could apologize.

I wish I could thank all of the adults who guided us and taught us.

Of course, I remember the other children best.

To Patty and Priscilla who were two years older; to Jane’s brother whose name I can’t remember; to Barbara, Susan and Vickie who were a year older; to Judi, Janie, Jenny, Irene, Russell and Bobby who were in my class; to the Ryans; to Jane’s sister whose name may have been Karen; to Karen who was Priscilla’s sister; to Barry, Debbie, Mike, Susan; (and Timothy, may you rest in peace.) to others that I can recall, but not put a name to; God be with you.

The congregation has disbanded, but in a real sense, it is not dead. It lives on in the lives that were touched, in the contacts that we made, in the examples of the lives of the people who passed through the church.

Blest be the tie that binds.

*Judi’s memories and mine conflict a little about this. The short history in the cookbook gives July 1955 as the beginning g of Lloyd Lambert’s ministry. I can’t explain the discrepancy. All I can do is relate my memories.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rogers Heights Christian Church 1946-2007

On a recent trip to my hometown, Tulsa, Oklahoma, I discovered a “For Sale” sign in front of the church that I grew up in.

When I returned to my hotel room, I learned from the internet that the church had disbanded the previous year. I also discovered a blog written by a woman who had been my classmate in Sunday School all those many years ago when we were children. In it, she describes her childhood memories of the church and the last service there on August 2007. (

Rogers Heights Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ)
409 S Pittsburg Ave
Tulsa, OK 74112

This is a referral to the newspaper account of the closing of the church.

I think we must have started attending Rogers Heights about the time that we moved back to Tulsa in1948. The Pastor, O. Edgar Wright, had baptized my mother when she was a student at Oklahoma A & M. (Now Oklahoma State University.)

Our denomination believes in adult baptism, or more correctly believer’s baptism. We believe it is a choice for the individual to make, not the right of his or her parents to make for him or her. In practice, people decide for themselves when they are ready to be baptized. Some feel that they are ready at a younger age than others. In our church some were baptized as young as 9 years old. My parents believed that one should not be baptized before the age of 12. I wanted to be baptized for at least two years before my parents would allow me to be. My mother waited until she was in college. She never discussed it with me, so when I found the certificate I was surprised.

I do, however, remember that we went there because of Ed Wright. My aunt who lived with us until the spring of 1949 has commented that Rogers Heights was probably the closest Christian Church to our home. That is true, but it would have been easier to go to First Christian downtown.

We must have started going there almost immediately after we moved into the house. What I can’t figure out is how we got to church. My aunt can’t remember either. I believe that we didn’t get a car until the fall of 1949. In the meanwhile, we walked or rode the bus or got rides. My father must have planned to ride the bus to work. I remember him sometimes waiting for the bus at the corner of 3rd and Columbia, but there was a man who lived on the street behind us who worked at the same place and did have a car, so my dad rode to work with him most of that year.

Yes, Virginia, people bought houses before they bought cars in those days.

My aunt was a student at Tulsa University. She walked me to and from school adjacent to the campus -- or later on meet me part of the way home – when they were sure I knew the way. I was in afternoon kindergarten.

Occasionally, and this part blows my mind, my mother would take me and my younger sister downtown, (It was less than 5 miles.) and when it was time for me to go to school, she would put me on a bus and tell the bus driver where to let me off. I don’t remember being lost or scared, what blows my mind is that the bus driver agreed to it and actually did see that I got off at the right place. I think that I did know where to get off and didn’t need much prompting, but of course, he didn’t know that.

My aunt remembers going to church at Rogers Heights, too, so we must have found a way. One possibility is that there was a bus on Sundays. I’ve lived in places where this would be unlikely, but it is possible. Another possibility is that we got a ride from someone in the church. The third possibility is that my grandfather came over and drove us to church. (Or even my uncle.) My grandparents attended First Christian in Tulsa for many years; my mother grew up in that church; my aunt and uncle met there. (Maybe both pairs of aunt and uncles did. I think that’s right.) I can’t imagine Grandfather driving us to church and then going on himself.

I don’t think we started going to Sunday School until after we got a car in the fall of 1949. I know that we held church services in what became the Fellowship Hall before the sanctuary was completed in 1949. Judi’s blog gives a better account of those days. I really don’t remember anytime before the sanctuary was build, but I “know” we met in the other building. Everything Judi says about that time rings true, but I have no identifiable memories of that time.

I turned 5 the summer after we moved to Tulsa. I believe that I always went to the church service. Now we have a children’s sermon and send the grade school children out of the sanctuary. At age 5 or 6, I was considered old enough to sit through the whole service. My sister may have gone to some kind or nursery during the service. She was 2 years younger.

I clearly remember three girls in my Sunday School class, Judi, Janie and Jenny. All three of these girls surnames began with the letter B. No wonder I never really felt like I fit in. My initials weren’t J.B.

The cornerstone on the sanctuary gives us the year 1949. Ed Wright left in the fall of that year. I do remember some discussion of leaving when he did, but maybe my parents had made friends. In any event, we stayed.

The education building below was built in the early fifties when J.R. Johnson was the minister. I remember playing in the foundations -- which we weren’t supposed to do.

In this picture, see where the brick stops and the yellow begins. That is painted-over cement block. The original plan was to build a second phase joining the first here. I remember those drawings. It would have been beautiful, but at the time the congregation couldn’t raise the money to build it. The compromise was to join the three buildings, education building, sanctuary, and fellowship hall, with the addition you see on the right probably around 1956. Judi explains some of this better than I do.

The architects drawing was for a sanctuary that matched the front of building photographed above, but with a projecting narthex topped by a steeple. The entry would have looked much like this entry. I don’t remember windows on the upper and lower floor. There would have probably tall gothic windows matching the one at the front of this building.

This is the front of the sanctuary. I remember the front walk as being longer than this. The world seems to have shrunk from the way I remember it.

My mother never liked to be early for anything. I can remember standing outside on this walk until the opening hymn began. Years later, I kidded her that I didn’t know what they did in church before the opening hymn because we never were there earlier. I went on that I had figured out that she liked to make an entrance, so every one knew she was there. That wasn’t very kind of me, I know, but I noticed she started to get to church on time.

Another aunt who had known my family from her childhood tells a story about my grandfather. My aunt’s father took up the offering in the Sunday School Class he and my grandfather attended. One day he found a twenty dollar bill in the collection. Understandably, he was concerned that someone had made a mistake. Twenty dollars was a lot of money in the twenties or thirties when this must have occurred. “No,” my grandfather said, “he had missed several Sundays and was just making up for it.” My aunt didn’t say this, but I thought how typical of him to make a show of his giving. The Bible quotes Jesus as saying that such have their reward.

The writer of the newspaper story about the closing of the church remarks that the demographics of the neighborhood were against us. I think the demographics were always against us. Even though I think that building would have been too large for the site, when the congregation was unable to complete the beautiful church the architect envisioned, the demographics were against us.
We persevered