My Father’s Heavenly Tenor Voice

Music figured prominently in the worship of the small congregation where I grew up, even though all singing was a cappella — without musical accompaniment.

Visualize a white clapboard Norman Rockwell sort of building in Saskatchewan back in the 1930s and 40s.

Children sang simple songs, still meaningful to this day:

Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.

On Sunday mornings, the congregation used hymn books without printed music. In spite of this limitation, traces of bass or alto might be heard rising here and there, and the singing was full-throated.

To begin Sunday-morning worship the pastor might call the congregation to stand and sing and they would respond with conviction.

Holy, Holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

On Sunday evenings we sang gospel songs from a book entitled Worship in Song. It had a variety from simple choruses to the more complex gospel song that I remember began:

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?

Lines from some of these Christian songs remain with me even at age 94. They linger in my memory and may come forth spontaneously at any moment of the day.

One song, along with the circumstance in which I heard it, is etched indelibly in my mind. It was a song I heard my father sing.

My father attended morning and evening Sunday services with my mother and younger sister and me although he was not at the time a full-fledged believer. He honored Gospel values although at times he struggled to give himself fully to a faith in the Lord Jesus that brings deliverance.

Still, by the grace of God, one Sunday evening his hunger to belong to the Lord compelled him to “go forward” to the altar. It was his turning point.

The next morning I awakened very early to the sound of his stirring up the coal-fired cook stove in the kitchen. I slept in the adjoining room. As he fed the fire, I heard him singing in a lovely tenor voice that I don’t think I was aware of before that time.

It was a new song on the market with a line about Jesus calling a blind man to him and delivering him of his blindness. My father’s singing was beautiful to hear.

It was a simple song that I believe rose up like a tendril of worship from a humble kitchen until it was heard at the Throne and became part of the music of the spheres.

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Photo credit: Rory (via flickr.com)

3 thoughts on “My Father’s Heavenly Tenor Voice

  1. Pastor,Thanks so much for this simple reminder that our Father works in very common ways His wonders to perform. My Father struggled,,not being raised in a Christian home, to live a Godly life. But praise God for His unfailing mercy and grace.Praying for you.

  2. In my high school years, I took music lessons from an instructor who lived in Cadillac, MI. Although she didn’t profess any type of religion, she commented one day that in the summer she would drive down by the Free Methodist Church, park her car, and listen to the a cappella singing of the congregation which wafted through the open windows. She rated the music as beautiful!
    So many times the words of those beautiful hymns have come to me in times of stress and heartbreak. I am so thankful for them!

  3. As a foster kid growing up in Sherwood, Michigan, I am so thankful that there was a Free Methodist Church in my small village. Henry Steel was the man that led me to Christ and I remember how he befriended me even though I had no interest in church. I even laughed at those who attended that church until I finally gave my heart to the Lord at the altar of that old Church, which today still stands as the oldest Free Methodist Church in the S. Michigan Conference. Even from the beginning I loved the hymns, but loved the evening service best because I knew at song selection I could choose “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.” It’s still my favorite songs and is recorded on one of the three c/d’s the lord has let me make. I was a lonely kid and longed for a home that wasn’t broken. A few times Henry asked me to go with him on an evangelistic trip and asked me to sing solos. This great man is gone now but the memory of his love for the Lord is still a treasure. And sometimes driving down the road and I start singing one of the old hymns and the memories of my mind take me back to Henry and that old church. During my early morning devotions I use an old F.M. hymnal, and I sing one hymn from the hymnal. If I close my eyes I can almost see the people of the congregation singing with me.

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