Among the things found in my Father’s belongings after his death was a slender bound aqua colored hymnal : Praise and Victory Songs, Compiled by Homer A. Rodeheaver and Harry D. Clarke, 1936 est.
Daddy had put his name and address label in it and had several notes marking what I assume he would have marked as favorites- #50 Standing on the Promises, #141 Just As I Am, and #151 Higher Ground. His piece of cardboard marking page #151 is dated 1/16/2011. A piece of cardboard with the other page numbers is dated 4/12/2010. Daddy was a consummate recycler of everything and would take cereal boxes and cut them up to use the cardboard for bookmarks and note paper.
I doubt that he had this hymnal for long years. It is more likely that it found its way into his hands in the last 5-6 years of his life, perhaps as one of the many books in boxes of miscellany that my Mother regularly purchased at yard sales, estate sales, or antique malls. She enjoyed discovering “treasures” among old books and this little hymnal which proclaims itself “Especially for Evangelistic Meetings” is certainly that!
I picked it up this afternoon and began to play through it. I went to the internet to look up the compilers, Homer Alvan Rodeheaver and Harry Dudley Clarke. I discovered that Rodeheaver, known to friends as “Rody”, was the music director for Billy Sunday’s evangelistic meetings for over 20 years. He was a “genial, extroverted personality” who particularly “enjoyed and promoted lively new gospel songs”.
In reading about Rody, I discovered this little note: “Introduced to the Moravian custom of an Easter sunrise service, Rodeheaver helped popularize the concept across the United States.” That little statement nearly took my breath away. For all of the years of my growing up, my Father would arise early every day, including Easter Sundays. For Daddy and me Easter Sunday morning meant Sunrise Service! When I was very young we attended them at a local community park known as the Iris Garden in Cuthbert, Georgia. Later, when we lived in Shellman, Ga. we would go the Rehobeth Baptist Church’s pretty white frame church and watch as the sun rose over the trees to the east, standing and singing and hearing the pastor recount the Easter morning story. It was a special Easter morning memory of going to sunrise service with him. As my brothers and sister got older, they, too, would sometimes go. But my very best memories are those of just the two of us, holding hands as we joined other early Easter morning worshippers.
Billy Sunday and Homer Rodeheaver traveled extensively with their evangelistic meetings. Rodeheaver founded a boy’s home in Palatka, Florida and traveled there regularly to inspire and encourage the residents.
Perhaps my Father attended one of their evangelistic meetings, maybe even an Easter Sunrise Service. Perhaps he even went to Sunrise Services with one of his parents as a child. I wish he was here to ask about such things. As it is, I can only speculate and wonder and play the hymns that he marked and feel close to him in doing so. And know that God has blessed me with this special insight into a worship practice that my Father and I enjoyed during my childhood years.
God has woven so many thin shiny threads of connection into the fabric of our lives. Ask questions. Look for the connections that add meaning to your life.