New Year’s Eve at Hodges Chapel

This was my first poem, written on New Year’s Eve, 2005. In the early 1900’s my maternal grandmother, Ernestine Oaks was educated in music at Beeson College in Meridian, MS. She often spoke respectfully and warmly of John Wesley Beeson, who founded the college. His son, Ralph Waldo Beeson, endowed the Beeson Divinity School and the Andrew Gerow Hodges Chapel at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. This chapel has been the setting for two concerts for Southern Harmony, a quartet in which I sing with some friends. On a visit to the chapel after celebrating Mother’s birthday on New Year’s Eve, 2005, I listened thankfully as our daughters spontaneously sang “Silent Night” under the dome where frescoes of saints of the church had been painted. At that moment I had an incredible sense of God’s providence and faithfulness, and the same Spirit which had taught my grandmother her music at Beeson College was singing through the voices of her great-granddaughters at Beeson Divinity School that very evening. In gratitude for such glimpses of truth, I penned these words.

O radiant chapel that now stands
with cherry-carved and frescoed hands
in marbled glory, and demands
our fervent prayer ascend, thanks giving,
to me, your gift most intimate,
perhaps not as your builders meant
but fashioned by the One who knows
what gives my heart its inner glows
is music, sweet, which first was found
as friends made melody, and the sound,
enriched by your Divine embrace
still ministers with seeking Grace
to hearts, though full, with empty space.
In gratitude come I to you to worship,
for the Spirit through your founding benefactors
knew my Nana and so taught her to sing and play
and gave to me a song one day.
Full circle comes your Grace around
to touch my soul with fresher sound
of our dear children, while around
the circle of your saints sing “Silent Night”,
and to your frescoes paint my stroke of heart
this New Year’s Night.

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