Allison Kraus visited our community in the 1980’s at a concert at Converse College, and I bought tickets for John and Scott. They talked about it for years. Here is her rendition of “Beulah Land.”
Edgar P. Stites was a veteran of the Civil War and a riverboat captain. He wrote the lyrics to this song in 1876. The musician, John R. Sweeney, composed the hymn tune.
This Southern gospel song describes a longing of an unseen land. It is an eternal country over a river. Often this hymn used to be sung at funerals, because of its promise of a better place than our earthly existence. It is based on the scripture, Isaiah 62:4 “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.”
This is the beginning of a new year, 2015. Many are making resolutions to either stop or start something. Others are specifically adding trips to foreign countries on their bucket lists. If we watch the news, we wonder what is happening to mankind, as some make destructive choices. Choosing a simpler life in the mountains, off the grid as it is called, looks like an attractive possibility.
My great grandmother, called Granny by all of us, was a member of a small church off Kanuga Road in Hendersonville, NC. I can barely remember the steep hill going up to the church and my surprise that cars parked all over the grass. There wasn’t a parking lot, and there were grave markers all around. There was only a sanctuary with open windows and hard benches to sit on.
We went to worship with her there only a few times. This would have been in the mid 1950’s during the spring and summer. It was different and foreign to me. I was young, and the memory has faded with time. But I remember the happy faces of those there; hugs were added to greetings. Bird songs competed with the preacher, and butterflies flew in and out.
“Beulah Land” was the song they sang at the end of the service every time we went. Just like the author of this song, who was looking for a better land after the Civil War, this congregation had their eyes wide open for one, too.
As I look toward this new year and wonder what it has in store, the optimist in me is wide awake. One of the most endearing compliments our son has ever given me is when he said I was the most positive person he knew. The cup is always half full in my eyes. Helen Keller once said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”
Happy New Year!