If you've been a member of the Adventist church for very long, you are sure to have discovered the many links between members; who they know, where they went to school, and which churches they have attended. Just about any visitor to church will somehow know someone that you knew years ago. If you mention the name of a friend in one of your college classes, Mom or Dad will probably say, "I know that last name, do you know if they are related to so-and-so?" It's one of the joys of being Adventist!
This week we welcome Pastor Danny Velez to Chapel Oaks, and it will be fun to see what links his family will have to the rest of us. Because when it comes right down to it, we are all members of the same family - our Adventist family.
Pastor and hymnwriter John Fawcett touched on this idea back in the 1770s when he wrote the following familiar lyrics:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Great words, but have you ever wondered how this song was written? It's a great, and touching story. John was born in 1740, and was apprenticed out to be a tailor. It would be a workable profession, and one that would provide enough money to keep his future family fed. But when he was 16, a famous British preacher by the name of George Whitefield came to town and began to preach. John was thrilled by the message he heard, and was quickly converted to the beautiful message of Christ.
With the love of Jesus shining from his heart, the tailoring business soon lost its attractiveness. After much thought, John threw down his needle and thread, picked up his Bible instead, and headed off on the preaching trail! He soon found work in a small Baptist church in rural England, got married, and made the church and the community his home and extended family. His fame spread, and after seven years of preaching, he received a pastoral call from a big church in London.
He excitedly discussed the matter with his family, and poured out his heart to God about what they should do. Another stanza of Blest Be the Tie That Binds expresses how he approached this opportunity that he had been offered:
Before our Father's throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts and our cares.
After much thought, he was impressed that God wanted him to take the call to London, where he could share the message with a much larger audience of believers. He told the members of his deacon's board that he would soon be leaving them for another position, prepared his farewell sermon, and delivered it with heartfelt emotion.
The day soon came for his London departure; he and the family had finished loading up the last cart of their belongings, ready for the trip to a new field of service. But he had not counted on his congregation! With tears and lamentations, they begged him over and over not to leave them, but to remain their pastor. They NEEDED him to stay!
He and his family could do nothing but look at each other in wonder at this outpouring of "family ties". Without another word, Pastor Fawcett and his family began untying the ropes that held their belongings in place, and started to carry them back into their humble home. For the remainder of his ministry, John Fawcett remained in the same small town, doing everything he could for his beloved church family.
Over the years, he wrote many other simple hymns for his congregation to sing at the end of his sermons, but Blest Be the Tie That Binds is probably his best known. In the 1800s and 1900s, more than half of all Christian hymnals contained this treasured song! When he later published his hymn collection, he apologized to "persons of an elevated genius" for his music, but hoped that "humble Christians" would be blessed.
And so to our new Pastor Velez, we look forward to the experiences and good memories that we will soon create together. Welcome to the family of Chapel Oaks - I am sure that we all will be blessed! - Dave Fairchild