“Mary, could you come practice this song with me?” John raised a leaf of paper, on which were written in neat rows a few lines of a song.
“Yes, John. Of course. Annie, sit still just a moment more, please.” Pulling the brush through the little girl’s hair one more time, she looked over her husband’s shoulder as he sang the song through once. The tune was familiar, and soon she was able to sing along as she deftly split the hair into three equal sections and braided it tightly before securing it to the girl’s head with a pin. Then, slipping the simple bonnet over the dark hair, she gave her daughter a kiss before sending her outside.
Once that job was done, she drew a stool up beside her husband. “Now that Annie is gone I can concentrate better. Will you want to sing this tomorrow?”
“Yes, I was hoping to. Should we go through it again, so you’ll get the words better?”
“Yes, of course.”
Together, their two voices raised in praise. His deeper bass notes and her higher soprano sounded sweet together. “Blest be the tie that binds / Our hearts in Christian love; / The fellowship of kindred minds / Is like to that above….”
“It’s beautiful, John!” Mary said when they had finished. “Did this…did the song come to you after what happened earlier this week?”
“Yes, Mary. Seeing the love of everyone, and feeling the sadness at leaving even in my own heart…and then their joy at finding out we were staying after all. It deeply impressed me. And I wanted to remember how that was. I know we did the right thing by staying here in Wainsgate.”
“This is home.” Mary said softly, fingering the edge of the paper. “I guess that farewell sermon last Sunday wasn’t farewell at all. And this will be a hello, in some ways.”
“It will indeed.” John laid the paper gently on the open page of the Bible, and stood up. “I have some more studying to do before tomorrow, so I should get busy on that. Would you be able to sing this with me tomorrow?”
“If the children behave, of course!” Mary rose and cheerfully set about preparing the noon meal. As she worked, she hummed. She was looking forward to tomorrow’s service—tomorrow’s homecoming service.
* * *
“And so we are here again,” John finished. “Here, to stay as long as the Lord wills it. And, for myself, I have hope that it will be for a long time.” He paused, gazed at the Bible for a moment, then glanced over the seated people. “Now, I have a special poem that came to me after the event of our almost departing to London.” In bold, clear tones he read it out. Then, he addressed everyone again. “This has a tune to it, one you all know well. Why don’t we sing it together?”
Then, reading the first verse out again, he struck up the tune and the congregation followed his lead. Together, the notes soared to the ceiling and beyond. They were words of hope, words of joy. Words expressing the elation they felt at being together again. And, above all the others, Mary’s voice rang the loudest as she sang out the jubilant words. This was home—and she knew that whatever would happen, the Lord was watching over them.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers:
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes;
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be join’d in heart,
And hope to meet again.
This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.
From sorrow, toil, and pain
And sin, we shall be free;
And perfect love and friendship reign
Thro’ all eternity.
Note: Like I said before, this is a true story. John and Mary Fawcett actually were real people living in the 18th – early 19th centuries. John lived from January 1739 – July 1817. In 1765, he joined the Baptist Church and eventually became pastor of Wainsgate Baptist Church in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, England. For seven years, he and his wife and growing family lived there, although his income was meager. When the opportunity arose in 1772 to pastor a larger church in London, he agreed to take it. He gave a farewell sermon at the Wainsgate church. After helping them pack the wagons with all their worldly goods, their friends bid them a tearful goodbye.
“Oh John, John!” Mary is reported to have said, “I cannot bear this!”
“Neither can I!” John responded, “And we will not go. Unload the wagons, and put everything back in its place.” His words were received with great elation, and soon they settled in again. In commemoration of the event, he penned this song—which is still widely sung today.
If you’d like to read more about this event, or more about John Fawcett, visit the following sites:
- Hymn Story: Blest Be the Tie That Binds – Lectionary.org
- John Fawcett (theologian) – Wikipedia.org
- Blest Be the Tie That Binds – CyberHymnal.org
- Reading the Hymns: Blest Be the Tie that Binds – Mere Orthodoxy.com
I hope you were blessed by this little story! Have you ever heard the story before?