Last week there was a baptism at my church. It doesn’t actually happen that often, and this one was quite moving. I suppose for some, that is always the case, but what made this so meaningful to me was the gratitude expressed by my friend as she spoke about the community she was being baptized into. It seemed that somehow her connections with various people in the congregation had opened up a space to find God in a way that was significant for her. The value of our communities has been a recurring theme for me as I look at all these hymns this year, and as I sat through this baptismal service, it was once again reinforced. This sacred rite took on new meaning for me as I received the gift of my friend’s gratitude. I am thankful for that.
It is fitting that this hymn came up for this week because it speaks of a kind of community that supports our spiritual lives. It speaks of fellowship – the kind that goes beyond socializing to something deeper and life affirming. Life supporting.
Bless’d 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.
What I like about these words is the commitment to sharing in the experiences of life together. Pouring out our fears, our hopes, our aims, our cares. The flowing of a sympathetic tear is something I both see and experience often in my community. It may seem a small thing, but to know someone else will cry with you, see your pain and your joy, is a powerful support. And a powerful draw to remain a part of the community. The author of these words, John Fawcett (1740-1817), apparently had the experience of being compelled to stay with his congregation by the love and tears of the people – after he had given his farewell sermon and loaded his carts to move to a new post! Community support can mean everything to us amidst lives that are chaotic, stressful, challenging, pain filled, joyful, happy and exciting. Whatever we go through, to have a space where we share our joys and concerns in a spiritual manner is a gift. Whatever we believe; wherever we can find it, bless’d be the tie that binds.
Fifteen years ago I sat at a table with six or seven college students at a farewell event. We sang this song in honor of the retiree, but none of the students joined in. Afterwards when I asked them why they didn’t join in, they told me they didn’t know this song. Very sad!