Desert Island Songs of Praise!   Leave a comment

 

Desert Island Songs of Praise!: My Testimony

There’s a long-running BBC Radio Programme called Desert Island Discs, in which the presenter interviews a different guest each week. The guest has to choose eight ’single’ recordings to take with them to an imaginary desert island, on which they will be ’marooned’ for some months with their collection of discs, a ’luxury’ item, the Bible, the Complete Works of Shakespeare and another book of their choice.  I thought I’d use this format to give you my testimony.

1.)  From Sherwood to Bearwood:

Both my parents were Baptists. They met and married 60 yrs ago in mum’s home City of Coventry – Dad was a steelworker from Wolverhampton, who became a pastor during the war. The motto of the town is, ‘out of darkness comes light’, as the MTK team were told when they visited Woverhampton Wanderers to play a football match to raise money for the Hungarian refugees in 1956.

Mum was the daughter of a coalminer and a ribbon weaver. I was born at home, near Nottingham. We moved to Birmingham when I was  eight and I joined the Boys’ Brigade and took part in Festivals of Arts, Sporting Competitions, Drama and Choirs. We often sang the Boys’ Brigade Anthem, ’Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life?’ based on….

Hebrews 6:19; ’So we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us are greatly encouraged. We have this hope as anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast.’

 

„…erős bátorításunk van nekünk, akik odamenekültünk, hogy belekapaszkodjunk az előttünk levő reménységbe. Ez a reménység lelkünknek biztos és erős horgonya, amely behatol a kárpit mögé.”

 

 

 

 
  
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,

When the clouds unfurl their wings of strife,

When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
 
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
 
 
 
We have an anchor which keeps the soul,
Steadfast and Sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the saviour’s love!
 
 
 

2.)   When I became a teenager, a Caribbean Gospel group came to our church and performed a number of Negro Spirituals and Gospel Songs. At the end of the concert, I gave my life to the Lord andwas baptised on Whit Sunday, just before my fifteenth birthday, almost exactly forty years ago. I became very involved in youth work, forming a rock group, writing musicals and attending Chritian Rock festivals. We were at a ’Youthquake’ event for the city’s young Christians, at the Cathedral, one Saturday night when a huge terrorist bomb exploded in a pub nearby, killing and seriously injuring many young people.  Two of us, both pastors’ sons, began preaching and performing peace songs in B’ham churches. We went on a pilgrimage together to raise money for charity following the hills from the Midlands to the Lake District in northern England, for a distance of 250km along ‘the Pennine Way‘, a long-distance footpath. Every night we read our bibles together, prayed, and washed each other’s feet – Philip had a club foot from birth. We both felt a calling to the ministry, but I decided to qualify as teacher first, in Wales.

Yes! Jesus Loves Me

Yes! Jesus Loves Me (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

One of the songs we used in our rock musical was ’Yes, Jesus Loves Me’, which I sang as Phil acted the part of ’Desperate Des’ coming to Christ. The words are based on….

Luke 18:17; Remember this! Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it!

„Bizony, mondom nektek: aki nem úgy fogadja az Isten országot, mint egy kisgyermek, semmiképpen nem megy be abba.”

Jesus loves me! He who died

 Heaven’s gate to open wide;

He will wash away my sin,

Let his little child come in.

Yes, Jesus loves me! (x3)

The Bible tells me so.

 

3.)   The next stage of my journey took me from to Snowdonia and from those Mountains in North Wales to Iona, a small island off the west coast of Scotland where Celtic Christianity was brought to the Saxons from the sixth century.  At the stone altar, made of a huge rock quarried from the island, I rededicated myself to a ministry of reconciliation.

 
Returning to my university, where there was a lot of conflict about the Welsh Ianguage, I learnt Welsh and became a student leader, making many friends among the Welsh Baptists and Congregationalists I lived and studied with.  However, I became critical of the churches and lost my spiritual direction while a research student in south Wales. It was in my final year in Wales, at a Church College in the west, that both my spiritual and physical health returned, as I began running long distances over the hills and along the river valleys.
 
 
 
 
I became a Religious Education teacher, and began my thirty years in my chosen ’vocation’ at a Church School to the north of  Manchester. There I continued running and walking over the Pennine Hills. The words of Paul to the Hebrews often came to my mind, together with the verse from the hymn based on it:

Hebrews 12.1; ’Let us run with patience the race that is set before us’

„..állhatatossággal fussuk meg az előttünk levő pályát.”

Run the Straight Race,

through God’s good grace,

Lift up thine eyes and seek his face;

Life with its way before thee lies,

Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

During my three years there, it was my Christian colleagues who helped to keep me ’on the straight and narrow path’, though we had lots of fun together too, on various school trips. I attended the local Anglican Church, but felt uncomfortable with its hierarchical organisation and very traditional forms of worship.  So I found the local Quaker meeting and began attending as an ’enquirer’ (Quakers have no formal ministers or services).

4.) From the West Pennine Moors to the Hungarian Puszta

……is a long way in the mind and spirit as well as in body. After visiting me in Lancashire and telling me that he thought I was following his ministry in my own vocation, my father’s death took me home to Coventry, where I continued to teach History and RE.  I went to the Baptist Chapel (with mum), but attended Quaker meetings and then worked for them in Birmingham for three years, while finishing my doctorate. As Quaker teachers, we visited Kecskemét in October 1988, and set up an exchange with the local teachers the next year. One of our visits was to the Reformed Church camp at Emmaus, near Lakitelek. As we walked over the sandy puszta, talking about all our experiences in Hungary, we felt the same sense of enthusiasm for the gospel that Cleopas and his fellow disciple must have felt:


’„Maradj velünk, mert esteledik, a nap is lehanyatlott már!” Bement hát, hogy velük maradjon. És amikor asztalhoz telepedett velük, vette a kenyeret, megáldotta, megtörte és felismerték, ő azonban eltűnt előlük. Ekkor így szóltak egymásnak: „Nem hevült-e a szívünk, amikor beszélt hozzánk az úton, amikor feltárta előttünk az írásokat?” ’

Luke 24:29; ’Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them, took the bread, and said the blessing; then he broke the bread and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ’Wasn’t it like a burning fire within us when he talked to us on the road and opened the scriptures to us? ’

Personally, I was walking in darkness at the time, and meeting and falling in love with Stefi was a clear sign that God’s grace and redemption from sin. The following hymn, based on this passage, promises this:

I need thy presence every passing hour:

What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?

Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me!

The hymn, Abide with me, written by the Devon pastor, Henry Lyte, is well-known in Britain, as it has been sung before every Football Association Cup Final since 1927. Another good reason to treasure it!

5.) Love Divine: Marriage in Bournville and Kecskemét:

At the Quaker Meeting held to celebrate and bless our ’forthcoming’ marriage in Birmingham the following January, we were given the advice by a  Hungarian 1956 exile,  to ’live adventurously.’  Since then, we’ve never done anything other than to follow this advice! We also sang ’Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’, Charles Wesley’s great hymn about ’the Greatest Love’ which Paul writes of in…..

1 Corinthians 13:13: ’Meanwhile, these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.’

„Most azért megmarad a hit, a remény, a szeretet, e három; ezek közül pedig a legynagyobb a szeretet.”

Love divine, all loves excelling,

Joy of heav’n to earth come down,

Fix in us thy humble dwelling,

All thy faithful mercies crown,

Jesu, thou art all compassion,

Pure unbounded love thou art,

Visit us with thy salvation,

Enter every trembling heart.

 

 

6.) Freedom in Christ; ‘Out of darkness comes the Light’:

The year after our wedding in Kecskemét, Steffan was born here in Kecskemét. We were ’euphoric’, but only spent a short time in Stefi’s home town before I took up a teaching and pastoral role in Pécs.  Here, the British and American teachers met for English-language ’Sunday School’ in our own homes. My mother’s sudden and unexplained accidental death triggered severe depression, a condition inherited from her, which affected my life for much of the next fifteen years. I attended a ’Freedom in Christ’ course held by our church in Canterbury, which, together with counselling and therapy provided by the Health service, helped me come to terms with this ’dark illness’ which I now know has burdened me since childhood.

Although I still lack self-control at times, regaining self-awareness was like being released from a long prison sentence.  This sense of release was like that written about by Paul in Galatians, on which Wesley based his intensely personal hymn about ’Free Grace’:

Galatians 2:20;  ’So it no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I refuse to reject the Grace of God.’

„Krisztussal együtt keresztre vagyok feszítve: többé tehát nem én élek, hanem Krisztus él bennem; azt az életet pedig, amit most testben élek, az Isten Fiában való hitben élem, aki szeretett engem, és önmagát adta értem.

En nem vetem el az Isten kegyelmet.”

 

 

And can it be, that I should gain?

 Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, –

I woke, the dungeon filled with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

7.) The Wondrous Story: Chosen to Care.

When Stefi became pregnant with our second son we also ’houseparents’ to fifty international students at a Quaker School in the west of England. On weekends off, we worshipped at the local Baptist Church, where I became a member. At twenty weeks, Stefi’s scan revealed that Oliver’s right hand had not developed, and we were also told that he may have other unseen problems, which could only be diagnosed at birth. Devastated by this news, we were visited by our pastor, Stephen. He listened to all our thinking and emotions, without giving opinions or making judgements. When we asked the common question of him, ’why us?’ he paused for thought, and said that God may well have chosen us to be parents to a disabled child because He felt we could cope with difference and disability.

 
 
 
Suddenly, through our tears, we were given a sense of purpose. When Oliver was born, only the fingers on his right hand were missing. As he’s grown, we’ve also realised how much use he has in the remaining part of the hand.

The name of the Welsh tune, Hyfydol, also means ’wonderful’.When Oliver’s dedication was held, we also rededicated ourself as a whole family, reading the following passage from scripture, on which a verse from the hymn, ’Wondrous Story’ is based.

Matthew 18:10-13; ’See that you don’t despise any of these little ones. Their angels in heaven, I tell you, are always in the presence of my Father… What do you think a man does who has one hundred sheep and one of them gets lost? He will leave the other ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go and look for the lost sheep…In just the same way your Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost.’

 

„Vigyázzatok, hogy egyet se vessetek meg e kicsinek közül, mert mondom nektek, hogy angyalaik mindenkor látják a mennyben az én mennyei Atyám arcát… Mit gondoltok? Ha egy embernek száz juha van, és eltéved közülük egy, nem hagyja-e ott a kilencvenkilencet a hegyekben, és nem megy-e el megkeresni az eltévedtet?…Ugyanigy a ti mennyei Atyátok sem akarja, hogy elvesszen egy is e kicsinyek közül.”

I was lost but Jesus found me,

Found the sheep that went astray,

Raised me up and gently led me,

Back into the narrow way.

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story,

Of the Christ who died for me,

Sing it with the saints in glory,

Gathered round the crystal sea.

 

8.) The ‘Enchanted Ground’; Bunjan Zarándokútja:

I said at the beginning that, besides the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare, I am allowed to take one other book to the desert island. This would be ’Pilgrim’s Progress’ by the seventeenth-century Bedford Baptist preacher, John Bunyan. Although I listened to and watched the story as a teenager, and have taught it in Literature classes, I’ve never read it cover to cover. Also, apart from its simple, beautiful English, it was the one book which, beside the Bible, could be found on the shelf of almost every English cottage, including my great-grandparents’.

A Zarándok Útja a Biblia mellett a világ legolvasottabb könyve. Ez azértkülönös, mert ennek a klasszikus műnek az iírója egy üstfoltozó volt, aki alig tudott írni és olvasni.

The hymn, ’To be a Pilgrim’, is based on a poem which appears in the narrative near the end of the long pilgrimage, when the pilgrims have reached ’the enchanted ground’. Mr Valiant-for-truth introduces it with the words: ’I believed, and therefore came out, got into the way, fought all that set themselves against me, and, by believing, am come to this place.’

„Hittem így elindultam a zarándokuton, leküzdöttem minden nehézséget, ami utamba került, és hitem által eljutottam e helyre.”

He who would valiant be

’Gainst all disaster,

Let him in constancy

Follow the master;

There’s no discouragement,

Shall make him once relent

His first avowed intent

To be a pilgrim.

 

 

So, by believing, I have come to this place, this ’enchanted ground’, because I believe this is where God needs me to be. The title of Bunyan’s other book, ’Grace abounding to the chief of sinners’, sums up what I feel about my own pilgrimage. I am here, in this enchanted place, despite my own failings and because of his grace, and I have been made to feel most welcome….

Andrew J Chandler

Kecskemét, Hungary, June 2012

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