Flower gardens and hymns for the soul
NEWARK – The wheelbarrow was loaded with red, white and blue geraniums from Pandy’s Garden Center, just across from the train tracks on Griswold Road. They had been specially selected to coordinate colors with the stars and stripes waving proudly from the flag pole above.
The small circular flower bed in which they were to be planted was the mainstay of all the gardens my parents kept. When the job was done, they brushed the dirt off their clothes, wiped the sweat from their eyebrows, then stood up and smiled silently saluting their country’s flag and our Creator God for the beauty of this land.
While attending Ashland Theological Seminary, this born and raised Roman Catholic learned to sing Protestant hymns in the chapel and during Sunday services at the Second Presbyterian Church. One of them reminded me of my mom and dad posing with their rake and shovel, like in American Gothic, Grant Wood’s 1930 painting.
For the Beauty of the Earth, was written by Folliot Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917), a graduate of Queens College, Cambridge (BA, 1857), and professor of classics at Somersetshire College. According to umcdiscipleship.org, “The hymn appeared in Lyrica Eucharistica as it was originally intended for the celebration of the Eucharist.”
The final refrain, “Lord of all, to you we lift up, This our grateful hymn of praise” expands the focus of the original hymn of Christ’s sacrifice to a hymn of gratitude for all creation and “Lord of all.”
Whether it was Remembrance Day, Flag Day, July 4th, or any other day of the year, my parents always remembered to give thanks for God’s many blessings. As WWII veterans, they never forgot those who didn’t come home, like my uncle Tony.
To say that their flower gardens were a labor of love would be obvious. And the flower box full of geraniums that I plan to release this year will honor their highest hopes, as evidenced by the closing lines of this hymn.
Rev. Mark Katrick, St. John’s UCC