This morning, in our church gathering, our song leader, Joel Bontrager, chose the song, “God of Grace and God of Glory  (from the Mennonite Hymnal, song #434).

It’s funny, yet delightful, how certain songs will trigger memories that make you smile on a Sunday morning that has been difficult (at best) and made more difficult by a bad attitude (that was me this morning, sorry to say!).

But Joel led the song, and I suddenly remembered Chorus practice at Greenwood Mennonite School.  The year was ’66-’67, and there were two new teachers at our school that year.  A very, very young Don Yoder and a new EMC graduate, Henry Shank. The two of them took the Greenwood community by surprise, and I dare say that more than just a very impressionable eighth grade girl were never the same again. 

Some times I wish I knew the adult dynamics of those days.  (I suspect that I’m better off not knowing.)  But Don Yoder was a much loved cousin who had actually boarded with my family on weekends while he went to LMS, and in my eyes, he could do no wrong.  And then there was Henry Shank who somehow looked at this insecure and often ridiculous teenager and decided that he saw some things to encourage and bless, and did so with an open and generous hand.  It wasn’t long until he was also a trusted and much loved advisor.

Mr. Shank directed the high school Chorus that first year that he was at GMS, and Mr. Yoder also participated, lending his great voice to the young men’s section of the choir.  One of the songs we sang was “God of Grace and God of Glory” and one day after practicing it at great length, Mr. Yoder, having observed that it was a great favorite of Mr. Shank, made one of his quiet snide remarks about it being “Mr. Shank’s wedding song.”  Of course, this little joke went around the students, who were quite interested in the fact that Mr. Shank was planning his wedding to a certain beautiful Lois Bechtel in the near future. Somehow the lyrics made us snicker when we applied them to a marriage.  How little we knew!

And then, one day at practice, as we prepared, once again, to sing the song, a student happened to mention, sotto voce, but still heard by our director, “Humpf!  Mr. Shank’s wedding song!”

First a look of puzzlement, then one of enlightenment, and then one of humor passed across Mr. Shank’s face.  And soon he was laughing out loud as he gleefully said to a somewhat amused but red-faced Mr. Yoder,  “You’re responsible for that!!!”

Ah, Mr. Shank.  We couldn’t know then that your life would be cut short — that you would marry that girl you loved so much, and together would have three beautiful children, and then, only 5 days after your 40th birthday would go to be with the Lord.  Sometimes  I think of the days when you introduced us to some of the great songs of the church, and how music will always be a part of the memories I have of you.  And “God of Grace and God of Glory” will always be “Mr. Shank’s Wedding Song” in my head, though it was, of course, NEVER sung at your wedding.  Today I looked at the words of this great song, and from the standpoint of a marriage of over 37 years, think it might just be one of the best wedding songs I have ever heard. 

If more of us could live the principles found here, truly petition the requests found here, and invite this “God of Grace and God of Glory” into the heart of our marriage, what a difference it would make in our homes.

 

God Of Grace And God Of Glory :

God of grace and God of glory
On Thy people pour Thy power
Crown Thine ancient church’s story
Bring her bud to glorious flower
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the facing of this hour
For the facing of this hour

Lo! The hosts of evil ’round us
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways
From the fears that long have bound us
Free our hearts to faith and praise
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the living of these days
For the living of these days

Cure Thy children’s warring madness
Bend our pride to Thy control
Shame our wanton selfish gladness
Rich in things and poor in soul
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal

Save us from weak resignation
To the evils we deplore
Let the gift of Thy salvation
Be our glory evermore
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Serving Thee Whom we adore
Serving Thee Whom we adore


Words by Harry Emerson Fosdick
Music by John Hughes


5 Comments

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5 responses to “

  1. What wonderful memories. The song is a very good lesson isn’t it?We missed church once again since Fritz’s shingles were driving him to distraction as they dry and itch. He is some better as the zinc oxide cream has been a big help today.

  2. Thanks for this… I enjoyed the hymn, too…

  3. What a sweet memory, and a beautiful hymn.  I think I know it, but not certain.  I need to look it up so I can hear it to be sure!

  4. Those wonderful people who were so influencial in our formative years create lasting memories. I have some from those in my adolescent years in church. I love your way of writng about your memories.

  5. I think todays churches are missing some wonderful blessings by replacing the hymnbook with modern praise choruses. There is such rich meaning and power behind the great hymns of the church.

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