Sunday, May 24, 2020

An Armed Forces Hymn for Memorial Day

In the century and a half since, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," was composed, it has come into widespread use by both Britain's Royal Navy and the US Navy, becoming known as the Royal Navy Hymn in the former and the Navy Hymn in the latter.

William Whiting of England composed the poem in 1860 for a student of his who was soon to sail for America. The music was composed by another Englishman, Rev. John Bacchus Dykes, an Episcopalian clergyman. The music was published in 1861, but I don't know how the lyrics and the music came to be put together.

The hymn was sung at Franklin D. Roosevelt's funeral, as well as the funerals of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. And as the 1999 movie, Titanic shows, it was also sung during services aboard the doomed vessel the Sunday before she sank. (However, the version sung in the movie was not arranged until 1940.)

Since the hymn was penned, a number of other verses have been composed by various persons over the years. Some of these have been adopted by the Armed Forces Chaplain's Board for inclusion in worship services conducted by military chaplains. These additional verses, prayers for the Marines, aviators, astronauts, the wounded, families at home and others, are included as an addendum on the US Navy's web page devoted to the hymn. Verses for the hymn are easy to write. The rhyming is simply, aabbcc, with each line consisting of eight syllables in iambic tetrameter (which by definition is eight syllables anyway).

The original hymn itself, of course, long ago passed into the public domain, so anyone may use the music or compose a verse thereto. Of the verses in the video, authorship is as follows:

Verse 1 - William Whiting, the original first verse.
Verse 2 - me, composed for this day as a prayer for the Army
Verse 3 - J. E. Seim, 1966
Verse 4 - Mary C. D. Hamilton, 1915
Verse 5 - me again
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Lord of hosts, to you we turn
To give us grace we cannot earn.
Our soldiers guard our way of life;
Be with them all in times of strife.
Let courage flow from your command;
We pray for those who fight on land.

Eternal Father, grant, we pray,
To all Marines, both night and day,
The courage, honor, strength, and skill
Their land to serve, thy law fulfill;
Be thou the shield forevermore
From every peril to the Corps

Lord, guard and guide all those who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air!

Almighty God, whose arm is strong,
protect us e'er from doing wrong.
We pray to always do what’s right,
for justice only be our fight.
Let peace now reign across our land,
brought to us by your gracious hand.
 You can hear the US Navy Sea Chanters, the service's chorus, sing the first verse by clicking here.

A prayer for Memorial Day

Lord God, grant us the faith that will truly honor those we remember this day.They died for their country; give us the faith to live for our country. They died to bring peace; give us the faith to live for peace.
They died believing in us, their fellow Americans; give us the faith to believe in one another and in our future. Grant us the same sense of commitment to people and their right to justice and peace as those we remember.
Teach us to honor all our relationships, from those dearest to us to those whom we will never meet but with whom we share this common planet. Grant us wisdom, give us hope, grant us dreams and visions like those that inspired people to give their lives, believing that through adversity and conflict would come peace and justice.
Lord, save us from complacency and prejudice – those very things that create conflict and cause young lives to be lost in battle or in despair. Make us instruments of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; 
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, unity; 
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, love; 
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Lord, hear our prayer, and let our cry come unto you. Amen.

Adapted from the prayer for the Anzac Day Dawn Service, Sydney, Australia, 1987.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Farewell to father

Yesterday, my father, Thurman Sensing, died after a sudden and steep decline the night before. He lived for the past two years in Woodcrest Health Care of Nashville, basically a high-end nursing home. Because of the C19 restrictions, I was unable to visit him from mid-March until yesterday, when my brother, Will, and I were called to come in. Our older brother lives in Delaware.

Dad was 92 years and eight months old when passed from this life. Will and I were at his bedside when Dad died very peacefully at 4 p.m. almost on the dot.

Dad was a Seabee sailor during and after World War 2 aboard the battleship USS Texas and the escort carrier USS Bougainville, both in the Pacific.

For the past several years, I took Dad to lunch on Memorial Day. I was looking forward to bringing him lunch (C19 permitting) this month.

I had always feared that a morning phone call from Woodcrest would bear the news that Dad had died overnight, so Will and I are thankful we could be at his side. God is with us.

Because of C19 restrictions in Nashville, we will not have a visitation or a chapel service. It will be graveside only. While non-family will not be turned away by any means, cemetery rules at this time require that no more than 10 persons be at graveside. Others may come, but must stand well away. (I officiated a funeral like that last month. It is lousy, but that's what was required.)

Dad was a good father, an honorable man of courage, integrity and duty. I was blessed to be his son and I give thanks for all that he showed me and taught me. Fathers' Day next month will seem very, very empty, I already know.
God be with you, Dad, 'til we meet again.
By his counsels guide, uphold you,
With his sheep securely fold you,
God be with you till we meet again. 
From the 1880 hymn by Jeremiah Eames Rankin. 
Here is his obituary.
Thurman Sensing, Jr., of Nashville, passed from this life into God’s eternal presence on May 14, 2020. Born on Sept. 20, 1927, he was preceded in death in 2015 by his wife of 64 years, Angelyn Burkitt Sensing. He is survived by his three sons, Andy (Terri) of Hockessin, Delaware; Don (Catherine) of Greenbrier, Tenn.; and William (Janice) of Nashville. He is also survived by seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Thurman was a World War Two veteran, having served in the US Navy aboard the battleship USS Texas and the escort carrier USS Bougainville. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1950 and then worked as an agent for New York Life until well into his 80s, having earned numerous sales awards throughout his career. Thurman also served as president and secretary of the Woodmont Kiwanis club.

An Eagle Scout, Thurman was co-founder of Troop 121 at Woodmont Baptist Church
Receiving the Good Shepherd award in 2016
and served as an assistant scoutmaster and Explorer scout leader. He served as Chairman of Tenn. Committee of scouting and as the Advancement Chairman for many years. He received The Pathfinder and Long Rifle awards and was the Western District Eagle representative on the Eagle advancement board. He was a recipient of the scouting Good Shepherd award.

An avid and highly-skilled golfer, he tried to imbue his enthusiasm for the game in his three sons but alas, only one came even close to his devotion and skill. If heaven doesn’t have a golf course now, they will shortly!

A graveside service will be held at Woodlawn Cemetery, Nashville, on Monday, May 18, with the Rev. Nathan Parker of Woodmont Baptist Church officiating.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Scouts BSA or to the memorial fund of Woodmont Baptist Church.
A Prayer at Taps, from the Song and Service Book for Ship and Field, 1941, a publication of the office of the chief chaplains of the War Department and the Navy Department, and used during World War Two:
Before we go to rest we commit ourselves to thy care, O God our Father, beseeching Thee though Christ our Lord to keep alive thy grace in our hearts. Watch Thou, O Heavenly Father, with those who wake, or watch, or weep to-night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend those who are sick, rest those who are weary, soothe those who suffer, pity those in affliction; be near and bless those who are dying, and keep under thy holy care those who are dear to us.

O Lord, support us all the days of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then of thy great mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at last. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Update: We received the death certificates right after the service. The cause of death is listed as cardiac and pulmonary arrest. We believe that is the correct determination, especially since Dad had already had a heart attack in his late 70s, and it is fully consistent with the suddenness of his terminal condition and the symptoms he exhibited until 4 p.m. of the day he passed.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The white privilege of the Covid-19 shutdown

This was posted on Facebook recently:

I am almost at a loss for words at how genuinely moronic this is, and how cruel it really is. Almost.

So let's talk about "privilege:" 

Who is it that is insistently calling for the lockdowns to continue no matter the costs in actual lives taken by the shutdowns themselves, estimated, says CBS News, to range from 75,000 to 150,000?

Who is it that dismisses well-reasoned and dispassionate calls to reopen the economy so that lives are not shattered, families no longer suffer deprivation, and the elderly are not abandoned?

Who is it that dismisses the documented forecasts that continuing the shutdowns will devastate rural medical facilities and quality of health care of rural Americans?

It is college-degreed white men and women who are financially secure, and who do not themselves think for a moment about how to pay for their next grocery trip or whether they will ever regain employment even approximating what they had before they were laid off.

It is college-degreed white men and women who think that the masses leave their homes merely to get haircuts or go shopping or - as one left-wing friend of mine posted on Facebook - to go bowling.

Minorities and lower-income Americans are being literally killed by the shutdown and their lives are being broken (NPR: "Why The Government Shutdown Has A Disproportionate Effect On African-Americans" and Center for American Progress, "The Impact of the Government Shutdown on People of Color").

But at least no one is turning a fire hose on them, so all is well! (But let us ignore for the meme's sake the political party of the men who turned the hoses on the marchers or loosed the dogs.)

So college-degreed, financially secure, upper-middle class and up white people simply, comfortably dismiss both the non-white and white unwashed, uneducated, poor deplorable-classes as mere untermenschen who have no idea how good they actually have it.

As for black Americans, what this meme really says to them is, "Shut up about how we have thrown you back into poverty and want. It is more important for us to feel safe! We are not attacking you with dogs any more, so what's your beef?"

Memes like this are frankly the most stunning examples of white privilege that I have seen in a long time. I will go further: to post this marks one as an actual white supremacist. 

Updates as they come in: 

'Our life is in danger': Unemployment hits 34% in Hawaii with no end in sight


WSJ: Medical Lockdown Will Cause a Disease Surge -- Patients who are sick with conditions other than Covid-19 aren’t seeking screening and treatment.

Monday, May 4, 2020

What is Mothers Day for?

This Sunday is Mothers Day, and guess what? Mothers Day is not about what we think it is about.

I know that many of us already know that we have sentimentalized Mothers Day away from its founding purpose. But I suppose there is no going back. Anyway, here is the true story of Mothers Day.

The day’s founders did not start honoring mothers because they wanted to honor childbearing. The woman credited with founding the modern observance of Mother’s Day is Anna Jarvis. Her Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, is called "the Mother’s Day Church" because Anna Jarvis was active there; her home in Grafton is a national landmark.

Anna Jarvis was inspired by her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis who organized “Mothers’ Work Day Clubs” in the 1850's in the area. The clubs provided medicines for the poor, inspected milk for children, provided nursing care for the sick, and ran shelters for children with tuberculosis.
When the Civil War broke out, she called together her clubs and asked them to make a pledge that friendship and good will would not be a casualty of the war. Throughout the war, the women nursed soldiers from both sides and saved many lives.

Anna Reeves Jarvis became a genuine peace maker after the war, organizing “Mothers’ Friendship Days” to bring together families from North and South which had been torn asunder by the war.
Anna Jarvis, the daughter, was born in 1850 and was an impressionable child and teenager when her mother was at the peak of her courageous work. So, in 1907, two years after her mother’s death, she organized the first “mother’s day” in Grafton, West Virginia, so that her mother’s work of peace and mission would not be forgotten.

Another of the earliest promoters of the idea of Mother’s Day was Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Julia Ward Howe was a militant abolitionist, and her “Battle Hymn” inspired the Union Army in the Civil War.

When the Civil War was over, Julia Ward Howe focused her attention on two other causes: voting rights for women, and world peace. In 1870 war broke out between France and Prussia. The war in Europe did not make sense to her and she wrote, “Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone know and bear the cost?. . . Arise ...Christian women of this day. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women on this day leave the duties of hearth and home to set out in the work of peace.”

She began organizing what she called “Mothers’ Peace Day” festivals which were celebrated annually on June 2. Her conviction was that though the world may be divided by war and conflict, the experience of childbirth could bind the mothers of the world together into one family.

So, the central concerns of those who established Mother’s Day were civil liberties, international peace, overcoming poverty and ministering to the poor and sick. From the beginning this was a day not simply to remember one’s own mother, but to find lessons for life in the experience and work of such mothers as Anna Reeves Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe.

Jesus is served

John 6.5-14 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people t...