Lord, (please) make your children one
Forty years ago this fall, I completed my masters and immediately began serving as minister of music at First Baptist Church in San Antonio. My first Sunday morning there, I was in for a most pleasant and powerful surprise at the end of the service. For several years, the congregation had been singing a closing song written by Lawrence Holben and William Tewson, entitled LORD, MAKE YOUR PEOPLE ONE. There was a four-bar introduction and then a solo began, “If I make one prayer to you my God, if one song is lifted to your name, it is to ask that your children might see they are one, might learn to love as you love your Son.”
Without any notable cue, the congregation always joined hands across the aisles during the intro, and at the refrain, they belted, “Lord, make your people one, Let your will be done, finish, oh finish the work begun, Lord, make your people one.”
Then a modulation and key shift which felt like a huge sea change.
At one very specific point cued by the modulation and with all the precision of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the two thousand or so held hands, forming unbroken lines in the congregation, went high into the air to repeat the refrain in the higher, more exciting key. It was stunning, powerful, moving. Goosebumps.
While I was impressed from the first time I experienced the closing song, as time went on, the ritual became something I truly looked forward to experiencing each, if not most, weeks. It began to calm my heart, bring me peace, and offer fresh courage.
That was four decades ago. In those days, the global church had had some experience with schisms, lines in the sand, splits, theological incompatibilities, political intrusions, and various stances on social justice. Yes, the late 70s were a challenging time.
But 1979 didn’t hold a candle to 2019! The prayer, “Lord, make your people one” is an even taller order today than it was in 1979, 1989, 1999, and even 2009. Today, the church as a whole is deeply divided and terribly splintered around any one of a number of hot issues. Becoming one seems much less likely in 2019 than in 1979.
It’s a huge sea change which calls for far more than just modulating upward and singing a theme song louder and in a higher key with a thrilling descant. What we Jesus-folk have before us is a challenge of epic proportions that calls for every ounce of love we can give, every milligram of compassion we can express, every scintilla of kindness we can call forth from our walks with the Savior. Today, this commitment to Christ will have to take place in the noisy streets, down in the dirty trenches, and passing through crowded hallways if they are to have any meaning at all in our calm, beautiful sanctuaries and cathedrals. Jesus’ taught us this by example.
At the writing of this blog, I am sitting in a hotel room in Waco, Texas, in the morning hours prior to the beginning of the YouthCUE Baylor Festival of Youth Choirs XIV. I’m thinking about what it will take for the church to be made one.
A huge part of what we do at YouthCUE is a response to the need to be unified in an age of deep division, relentless score-keeping, verbal brutality, epidemic incivility, and endless side-taking. Headed toward Waco as we speak (write) are 300+ bright young students, directors, and counselors: choirs from Presbyterian, United Methodist, Cooperative Baptist, Southern Baptist churches, as well as a couple of community youth choirs not associated with any church. (By the way, the two largest groups by far are the community choirs not associated with any particular church, but that’s another story for another time.)
What unites us is not our self-righteous opinions on social issues, political ideology, support or disdain for Supreme Court decisions, how we line up or fail to line up with the current POTUS, or even our pious theological nuances.
Rather, our banner of love is the timeless truth of the holy scripture we sing, the divine and ageless beauty of the choral art in which that truth is framed, the fellowship, community, and acceptance we share with each other from the get-go, and most particularly, the merciful Savior who loves all of us just as we are and says to all of us without qualification, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Everything else is of far lesser value and importance.
Give us Jesus.
Founder & President, YouthCUE & Minister of Music & Worship at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, TX
Prior to devoting his full-time efforts to YouthCUE beginning in 2005, Randy served for more than thirty years as minister of music at First Baptist Church San Antonio, First Baptist Church Shreveport, Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio and currently at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio. He served as Chorusmaster of the Shreveport Opera Company from 1991-1999.
He has composed twenty-one published choral anthems and has authored the most comprehensive textbook to date on youth choir ministry, entitled, Revealing Riches and Building Lives: Youth Choir Ministry in the New Millennium. With more than six hundred articles published in over thirty publications, Randy Edwards is one of the premiere specialists in youth choir ministry today. He is sought widely as a conductor, clinician, consultant, and teacher.