In my faith tradition, this is Holy Week between yesterday’s celebration of Palm Sunday and this Sunday’s celebration of Easter. I thought I would write this week about music I have encountered in various faith settings. There has been a wide variety, as I think back about it, and worth a week’s worth of postings.
My parents were not religious, and I had minimum exposure to church. My grandfather was an Episcopal priest, but he lived 3000 miles away and was not a direct influence on my faith. The summer I was 11, however, we spent a month with my grandparents in the small town of Pike, New York where they had a summer farm. Pike was so small that our visit was announced in the town paper. My friend Gwen, with whom I daily rode bikes and swam in Wiscoy Creek, invited me to come with her to Vacation Bible School at the local Baptist Church. My grandmother was slightly suspicious of Baptists, but she agreed I could go with my friend.(Grannie was a religious snob!)
I remember little of that time, but I know I really enjoyed myself. We made great pictures with cotton balls glued to colored paper to represent the sheep that Jesus cared for. I am not sure that I understood the metaphor, but I loved those little fuzzy sheep. The one tune that stuck was “Jesus Loves Me.”(I have not inserted a link to this since the online versions have troubling lines we never learned.) We sang it every day and it sunk deeply into me. I didn’t make much sense of the line “the Bible tells me so,” that supports the idea that “Jesus loves me,” but I really grabbed onto the idea that God loved me.
My faith journey was interupted many times in the years to come, but that song stuck with me. When I moved to Connecticut and saw signs for Vacation Bible School, I called the little church in Pike. I asked them if they still did Vacation Bible School. When they said yes, I asked them what the program cost them. I sent them the $100 to run the camp that summer, to pay them back in some tangible way for the truth they had planted in me. I would never succumb to “hell fire and damnation” preaching in life because “this I know,” “Jesus loves me.”