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HomeChurchesRev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website

There’s a song in my heart

Frequently I pause to reflect about my neighborhood and what in particular I find so fetching about life in the Northern Neck. Especially so, when here and there a daring soul risks popular opinion by exercising ownership of his or her own spot of “Holy Land” and thereby lifting public opinion to its highest. Mark that “lowest, as mine’s best!”

Almost gone now are the sparring chit-chats about “come-heres.” I got over that a while back when I came to the realization that Captain John Smith was a “come here.” There are no white, Baptist, republican citizens who predate such a historical discoverer. I hope that time on the Neck will record me as a welcomed-here. We will rise to our calling when citizens start to agree on what is best here, rather then different or foreign.

For me especially, I am blessed by the plethora of music hereabouts. Concerts on the Irvington green are so special; especially the military “pops” concerts, ear-filling and toe-tapping. Why, if I weren’t Baptist, I might have danced the night away! 

Tidewater Public radio is tops with me for hours of classical play. Well, let’s see, I love to hear and sing gospel tunes. I delight in piano and organ music. There were no better church teams than our own Gloria Lee Jones and James S. Andrews Jr. Alas, that team is in retirement of late. The kind of music I like best is that which comes from the human musical voice, which has found the author of faith’s music.

Years and years ago, Mrs. Bertha Bonner happened upon a gaggle of teen lads (at Pouchot’s Diner) awaiting the card game to end, later swallowing burgers and possibly about to commit mischief. Yes, you already know, I, with my new driver’s license, was amongst the lads.

Mrs. Bonner dismounted her huge Detroit steed and walked right into the gang with an invitation to attend the fifth-Sunday sing at old Morattico Church, just east of Kilmarnock on Route 200. All of us lads were heads taller than she. Several of us accepted. Fewer still showed up. For those who did so, a blessing followed. Maybe it was the words of the songs. Maybe it was the sharing of a musical soirée. Could’ve been the refreshments that followed. Maybe it was just the power of God’s spirit, loosed among those attending. No matter; such an afternoon remains with me some almost 60-plus years later.

The late Mrs. Louise Belote Dawe (1890-1994, grandmother of Grid, the Motor Doctor), in her collection of Irvington memories To Irvington with Love (1982), spoke of her love of church music. She remembered “Singing Sundays” at Sharon Baptist Church (located in the suburbs of both Weems and Irvington). “We never failed to go when there was a group visiting from Baltimore called ‘The Harmonizing Four ’ and our summer guests always considered it a real treat to hear them. They left the rostrum, walked down one aisle and up another singing ‘Lord, here comes your tenor; Lord, here comes your baritone; and, reaching down, down, down, to the very deepest depth of resonant harmony, Lord here comes your bass.’ The very floor trembled!”

Years spent, the late Mrs. Sid Low (Doris, d. 2004) invited me to lead a weekly Bible study over my shoulder at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury. 

With the passing of Doris, another friend stepped up, and provided an annual invitation. She was Mrs. Julia Olson (1927–2018). When Julia and her husband Charles hit our shores, they lived near the juncture of the Jimmy Jones By-pass and Cox’s Farm Road, and attended the Irvington Baptist Church. Julia’s house later became home to the Lindbergs (now of Florida). Many years prior, a missionary at Kilmarnock’s Seventh Day Adventist Church resided there.

Once, I was called away to preside at a wedding at the Bluff Point United Methodist Church. Julia went with me to provide the organ music. As an aside, may I also confide in you that she was the mother of the bride? Never mind that. Retired building developer Bob Butler (1921-2012) and Jean Dize (1917–2011) joined ranks against me and persuaded Julia to stay there. In those days, Jean was my Rappahannock Record editing pal. Who’d have thought her to turn on me? Julia stayed there for years lifting God’s music, until after moving to RWC. 

These days our Brad & Joanie Perry (i.e. Alabaster Grace) are often picking and vocalizing the gospel at Bluff Point.

On a very special Tuesday, a milestone in music appreciation erupted for me. Joining me at RWC were the late Peggy Davis (1928-2019) and our own Anna Jo Sanders, two lovely, spirit-filled songbirds with performance seniority. Julia mounted the piano bench to accompany them, and the rest, as we sang glory down. I did a brief bio of the composers, poets, and musicians who gave us some familiar hymn tunes. The assembled residents and invited guests lifted the morning to a high-water mark again, for this old, white-haired, bearded, Santa-look-alike Baptist preacher. 

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