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SHOCKING TRUE TALE
Straight from the mouth of a "Reverend Canon" of the Episcopal church . . .
On Sunday morning, January 14, 2024 (and, yes, the date is significant) I was at pre-church choir practice at Church of the Resurrection in Longwood, Florida. We had just made our way through "Lift Every Voice and Sing"—a rather unfamiliar hymn that changes from major to minor and back again in the course of three phrases. Definitely not our most stellar warm-up! And, suddenly, the priest who was substituting that morning—a retired canon of the church—walked over and said: "I have a story to tell you about that hymn. The 8:00 service sang it very poorly, and I'm hoping you'll give it the respect it deserves."
Naturally, rehearsal stopped dead, and we listened with avid ears, though we had no idea just how dramatic his story would be.
Grace note: The most shocking part of this story up front—it is from 1994. Not the 60s, 70s, or 80s, but 1994. (Both canon and town shall remain nameless.)
Our tale-teller (just a priest at the time, not yet a canon) had recently been called to a church in South Carolina. Now, the last black church in that town had closed in 1990, yet as he looked at his congregation, he saw not a single black face. As he tells the tale, his birthday was approaching—February 13. He announced that he wanted a special birthday present from the church. They were to call every member of that black church and invite them to Sunday service.
But when he asked the organist to play "Lift Every Voice and Sing"—what is called the national anthem of the NAACP—the organist refused. The priest actually had to threaten to fire him before he agreed to play it. (And, yes, that's the hymn we had just struggled over in rehearsal.)
Sunday morning came. And the "invited guests" wept and cried out when they heard that hymn. The priest went ahead to ask that every one of them register as a member of the church. And they did.
Our choir was both shocked and spell-bound by this tale. We begged him to tell it to the congregation - which he did, asking that all sing the hymn with "gusto." And we did, but not just the choir. I have never heard our congregation sing with such enthusiasm. It was a precious moment, which I immediatelyknew I must share with my readers world-wide.
Repeat: This tale is all the more shocking, as it took place in a time when most of us thought the Civil Rights movement had broken the grip of segregation in the south.
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This week's featured book is my third Regency Gothic, The Demons of Fenley Marsh, the hero based on a character in one of my first-ever attempts to write romance, maybe as long as 50 years ago while still living on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. (Just love those wounded heroes. Resurrected a somewhat similar character years later in The Abominable Major.)
When the widowed Miranda Tyrell escapes a dire situation in Kent by accepting a position as governess in Lincolnshire, taking her young son with her, she never dreams she is jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Instead of peace and safety, Miranda discovers the flat agricultural plains and salt marshes are rife with tales of mysterious fires, gutted animals, and strange sights and sounds in the night. Her new charge is a disturbed nine-year-old known as the Demon Child. In addition, rumors supported by the local curate claim that her employer, a badly scarred veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, is a demon. And those are only the beginnings of her troubles as she attempts to teach two fatherless boys and deal with her wayward heart, which she swore would never love again.
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Thanks for stopping by,Grace (Blair Bancroft)