I attended a two-room Christian Day School that came straight out of a fairy tale.
It was a sturdy brick building with a green roof located in the middle of rolling, picturesque farmland. Across the road stood the tall-steepled church. Several stones-throws to the south stood the stout-steepled church. As a child I thought it was pretty silly to have two churches so close together. As I grew older, I realized that it was more than a cemetery that separated them.
My earliest memory of being in school . . .
happened outside the school, on the merry-go-round. This merry-go-round was unlike any that I’ve seen since. It not only went around-horizontally, it went in and out. Things like this are not even manufactured today, due to the safety hazards involved. It was always occupied. I remember the 8th grade boys showing unusual concern for the first graders who were courageous enough to co-exist on the merry-go-round with them. Those big boys would get that thing spinning so fast and then they’d hop on and put their hands over the little kids to help hold us in place. Good thing. The torque they created was impressive.
Inside the school, one of my earliest memories. . .
is standing by Miss Bly’s desk while I recited my memory work. Miss Bly wore cat-eye glasses and had a blonde ‘That Girl’ hairstyle. She was the smartest person I knew. I was pretty good at memorizing but I didn’t memorize to fulfill an assignment. I memorized for Miss Bly. I would have done anything for her. I wrote neatly for her. I was kind to my friends for her. I did all-things-school just for her.
As the years elapsed, I stood in front of the desks of multiple, faithful Christian Day School teachers and recited the Bible passages and hymn verses they had assigned. Their commitment to making hymnology a regular part of our curriculum helped to further ingrain in my heart the hymns I had learned in my home.
By the time I was in 5th grade, the 24 kids in grades 5-8 knew quite a few hymns. We could virtually be called upon at a moment’s notice to sing for Ladies Aid meetings and funerals. One day, our teacher told us we’d be walking over to church to sing “Children of the Heav’nly Father” for the funeral of a kindly 80-year-old gentleman who was a church pillar. It struck me as an odd hymn to sing for someone so old. This man certainly was not a ‘children.’ But, as I looked over the balcony that day, singing all four verses of this hymn from memory with my school comrades doing the same, and watching the hands below us wipe away tears, I realized that it was the perfect hymn to sing. This old man was a child of God who was now safe in the Father’s refuge.
That funeral was a turning point for me and my relationship with hymns. Up until then, the words of hymns were simply poems I had a capacity for memorizing. After that funeral, I began to read the words of hymns for understanding and the texts began to impact my heart.
I am forever grateful for the teachers God placed in my life throughout my youth. They, along with my mom and dad, played a key part in embedding these beautiful hymns deep within my heart.