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Faith Sharing – America, Befriend!

July 11, 2012

Faith Sharing is a regular part of our worship of God at White Plains Presbyterian Church. The following testimony reflects the spontaneous sharing by a member of the Choir on Sunday, July 1, 2012

On Sunday, July 1st, our congregation held its annual Independence Day service, honoring our ancestors and forebearers who formed this government and brought us freedom. This particular Sunday has always been very special for me, and I am continuously in awe of the Revolutionary connection that we share with our cemetery, since both British and American soldiers lie together, now in peace.

As the soprano soloist of WPPC for the past 30+ years, it has been a challenge to find appropriate repertoire that would reflect both the foundation of our seedling freedom and the spiritual tie which played such a large role in the formation of our country. Around 1986, our Director of Music – David Ralph – stumbled upon such a piece when browsing through an early American hymnal he owned. The title is “America, Befriend!” – a poem written as a plea in pre-Revolutionary War times (1773) by John Peck (who was on his death bed), and set to music by the Father of American Choral Music, William Billings, after the war in 1791.

That Sunday, as I began rehearsal of the music with Director Ty Lundman, it occurred to me that I have sung this music annually for approximately 26 years, and never have I been so in touch with the words of the poem than I was at that moment. I felt led by the Holy Spirit to express my thoughts to the congregation and to read the words of the poem, since they were not published in the bulletin. Pastor Jeff graciously concurred, and when the time came, I expressed my urging of how much more the words meant to me than all my times of singing it in the past – how our church was formed in 1714 – long before the words and music were created – and how poignant and significant the meaning of the words are now – almost 300 years later – as they were in 1773. I marveled at how far we have not come in resolving so many of the issues stated in the poem, and recognized how far we have come, but what we still need to work on for the future. I further pointed out how Pastor Jeff has demonstrated to the members of our 300th Anniversary committee these very thoughts: it is important to honor our past at this church, but at the same time we accept and be aware of who we are now; but more importantly, what will our legacy be for future generations?

As you read “America, Befriend”, please be mindful of the 239 years that have passed, and try to visualize the accomplishments our government has achieved vs. the issues which still need much work, and finally, ponder on the small part our church could play in incorporating them into part of the legacy we leave to our future generations here at White Plains Presbyterian Church.

AMERICA, BEFRIEND!

O LORD OUR GOD, THY MIGHTY HAND HATH MADE OUR COUNTRY FREE.

FROM ALL HER BROAD AND HAPPY LAND MAY WORSHIP RISE TO THEE.

FULFILL THE PROMISE OF HER YOUTH, HER LIBERTY DEFEND!

BY LAW AND ORDER, LOVE AND TRUTH, AMERICA, BEFRIEND!

.

THE STRONG OF EVERY STATE INCREASE IN UNION’S GOLDEN CHAIN;

HER THOUSAND CITIES FILL WITH PEACE, HER MILLION FIELDS WITH GRAIN.

FULFILL THE PROMISE OF HER YOUTH, HER LIBERTY DEFEND!

BY UNITY AND BROTHERHOOD, AMERICA, BEFRIEND!

.

O SUFFER NOT HER FEET TO STRAY, BUT GUIDE HER UNTAUGHT MIGHT.

THAT SHE MAY WALK IN PEACEFUL DAY, AND LEAD THE WORLD IN LIGHT.

BRING DOWN THE PROUD, LIFT UP THE POOR, UNEQUAL WAYS AMEND;

BY JUSTICE NATIONWIDE AND SURE, AMERICA, BEFRIEND!

.

May God continue to bless and support our nation and our church in our quest to amend “unequal ways”.

.

Shared by Phyllis Worthington

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