Since this is a rare Sunday post from me here at Meanwhile, at the Manse – I usually give myself Sundays off, treating Sunday as the day of rest that it was in the Christian tradition in which I was raised in this very house – I thought I might deal with a Sunday kind of topic. As so often happens, it has been inspired by a chance discovery I made a while back here in central Hastings County.
The church that Raymond and I attend, St. Andrew’s United right here in Queensborough (where my dad was the minister when I was growing up here), has a shared-ministry arrangement with two other churches, St. John’s United in Tweed, and Bethesda United in the hamlet of White Lake, just south of Madoc. (You can read about that arrangement here, if you’re interested.) Whenever there is a fifth Sunday in the month, we hold a joint service at one of the churches, which gives us a chance to worship in a different place and see friends from those other churches. One recent Sunday that joint service was at Bethesda, and so I hied myself off to that pretty and historic little church.
At Bethesda they use older hymn books than we do at St. Andrew’s – one of them being The Hymn Book, which was published jointly by the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada back in 1971, when the two national churches were considering an amalgamation that was eventually called off. I have always liked this hymnal very much; its hymn selection is elegant and wide-ranging, traditional but with some interesting and challenging pieces thrown in. (As well, it was the hymnal in use throughout the United Church when I was a young teenager singing in the choir at St. Andrew’s, and I suspect that everything from one’s happy teenage years, even hymn books, seem special.)
Anyway. When I opened my pew copy of the The Hymn Book for one of the hymns that Sunday at Bethesda United, I was interested and touched to see (thanks to a bookplate inside the front cover) that it had originally been used at Eldorado United Church, where my father had been the minister. The bookplate notes that this hymnal (and probably several others) had been given to Eldorado United by the Sandford family in memory of the Sandford and Franks families:
Sadly, Eldorado United closed a few years back; I suppose its congregation must have chosen to donate its hymn books to Bethesda as a congregation that was still active.
I was delighted to be holding in my hand a hymn book that, for all I know, I had once held in my hand as a much younger person standing in the pews at Eldorado United.
And I was also delighted to read once again the United Church Creed, pasted (rather crookedly, and I’ll get to that in a bit) onto the right-hand page inside the cover:
That creed was adopted by the church in 1968, and I have always considered it to be a splendid and poetically, pithily written statement of Christian belief. (In this I am not alone; I know that churches of various denominations all over the world include this United Church of Canada creed among their own statements of faith. Hey, did you know that the word “creed” comes from the Latin “credo,” meaning “I believe”? So a “creed” is simply a statement of what ones believes.)
The original version of “The Creed,” as we called it back then, has since been altered a bit to get rid of the male-centric language: “Man is not alone” has been replaced, sensibly, with “We are not alone;” “the true Man, Jesus” is now “Jesus, the Word made flesh;” and so on. And one line has been added, again I think sensibly: in the part that starts with “He calls us to be his church” (now changed to “We are called to be the Church”), “to live with respect in Creation” is added in between “to celebrate his (now ‘God’s’) presence” and the timeless “to love and serve others.”:
But aside from the happy reminder of that well-written statement of faith which came into being during my childhood years at the Manse, another memory came into my head as I looked at the United Church Creed pasted into that copy of The Hymn Book. And it was this: I probably pasted it there!
Flooding back came a dim memory of my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, enlisting my sister and brothers and me to stick those copies of the Creed into the hymn books in use at St. Andrew’s and Eldorado United churches. And here’s the best part: I am fairly sure that we had to lick each one to make it stick! That is, I know that they were sticky on the back when moistened; but was there anything resembling a sponge or some such to moisten them? Why, who needed that, when you had four little kids who were good at doing as they were told, and would probably enjoy the adventure of licking a hundred or so (maybe more!) bookplates and sticking them into hymn books?
That was so like my dad: make good use of the ready and willing labour at hand. And really, what’s wrong with that?
When I saw my sister Melanie the other evening – we were celebrating my mum‘s birthday with her – I showed her the picture of the rather crookedly-pasted Creed and asked her if she remembered licking and sticking them in. She cast her mind back, and her recollection was a little fuzzy like mine, but – she did!
Hey, maybe the reason our memory of it is fuzzy is because of the chemicals we ingested from licking those bookplates…
But you know, those were good times. Heady times. The late 1960s! The United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, had come up with a truly great statement of faith. My dad, a great rural minister (if I do say so myself) was keen to share it. We kids – Melanie, John, Ken and myself – were always up for a project if Dad put us on it. Even if it meant a lot of licking and sticking – and even though the sticking may not always have been very straight or very square.
What a gift it was to be reminded of all of that, completely unexpectedly, when I opened my Hymn Book at Bethesda United Church that recent Sunday.
What a gift.