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Neely Young: Summer Chapel Songbook

Each summer my wife and I attend the Summer Chapel, a church in Western North Carolina. Located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains between Cashiers and Highlands, it becomes a must-visit for Georgia natives and others during the hot summer. Every Sunday for 12 weeks beginning in June, the church hosts a service that includes sermons by the Rev. Jim Theus plus an old-fashioned sing-along with bluegrass music and hymns from the good old days in small-town America.

During the service held last July 4th, Rev. Theus’s 94-year-old mother-in-law, Polly Winter, gave a wonderful sermon. Polly recently passed away, and at this Christmastime I want to share her thoughts with you.

During her sermon she asked, “What is your vision for our country?” She continued, “I hope you have one and put some effort into bringing it about. Your vision, combined with that of others, can become a great mosaic, a beautiful pattern, each small piece fitting into its own unique place, until a glorious picture emerges to give us hope that the vision of our forefathers and subsequent generations shall not perish from the earth.”

As part of my annual December holiday column, I would like to present a sample of some of the lines of my favorite songs from the church’s songbook, compiled with no attribution by music director and Summer Chapel Band leader Mark Lassiter. Whatever your belief is, these words, like the words of Polly Winter, will help your soul be closer to America and to God, no matter what you believe him to be.

Whispering Hope: “Soft as the voice of an angel, breathing a lesson unheard. Hope with a gentle persuasion, whispers her comforting word. Wait till the darkness is over; wait till the tempest is done. Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, after the shower is done. If, in the dusk of the twilight, dim be the region afar, will not the deepening darkness brighten the glimmering star? Then when the night is upon us, why should the heart sink away? When the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day.”

Amazing Grace: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but  now I see. T’was grace that taught my heart to fear. And grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”

Down by the Riverside: “Gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside, down by the riverside, down by the riverside. Gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside. I ain’t gonna study war no more. I ain’t gonna study war no more.”

When the Saints Go Marching In: “Oh, when the saints go marching in. Oh, when the saints go marching in. Lord, I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.”

Bringing in the Sheaves: “Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve; waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!”

Do Lord: “I’ve got a home in glory land that outshines the sun. I’ve got a home in glory land that outshines the sun. I’ve got a home in glory land that outshines the sun, way beyond the blue. Do Lord, oh, do Lord, oh, do remember me. Do Lord, oh, do Lord, oh, do remember me. Do Lord, oh, do Lord, oh, do remember me, way beyond the blue.”

Everything is Beautiful: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. Everything is beautiful, in its own way. Like the starry summer night or a snow-covered winter’s day. Everybody’s beautiful in their own way. Under God’s heaven the world’s gonna find the way.”

This was my father-in-law, Jim Thomas’s, favorite song, sung at his funeral several years ago. His Eye is on the Sparrow: “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart feel lonely and long for heaven and home. When Jesus is in my portion, my constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free. For his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

Merry Christmas!

Editor’s note: The Summer Chapel is at the end of a fundraising campaign to purchase property to help preserve the church’s future. If you would like to help, contributions can be made to Whiteside Cove Summer Chapel and can be mailed to: Summer Chapel, P.O. Box 774, Cashiers, NC 28717.

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