STLT#199, Precious Lord, Take My Hand

I’ve been to church this mornin’.

Not literally, of course, and yet…

When I was in seminary, I joined the gospel choir – I was tentative at first, not only because I am white but because I am not a Christian. But I was assured that this gospel choir was indeed open to all, and yes, I found it exactly that way: a mix of people, a mix of beliefs, even a mix of talents. Yet our conductor, M. Roger Holland (who now teaches and conducts at the University of Denver), made everyone feel welcome as we both sang and learned a great deal about the wide expanse of the gospel milieu – from the old spirituals (and Moses Hogan’s influence) to the old timey gospel songs, to modern grooves and swings, and everything in between. We learned the history, the compositional complexities, and the vocal techniques.

And, we talked about the theologies. Some of us struggled, especially when the song was grounded in a ‘washed in the blood’ theology. We talked a lot about inclusive language and expansive meanings, and we wrestled a lot with the word “Lord” with its connotations of empire.

Which brings me to today. “Precious Lord, take my hand.” How very unlike us to sing a song of surrender to a “Lord” … and yet, here we are. Maybe we need a little surrender. Maybe we need a prayer to get through the night, to get through the hard times.

(Chorus)
Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light,
take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

When my way grows drear, precious Lord, linger near,
when my life is almost gone,
hear my cry, hear my call, hold my hand lest I fall;
take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

(Chorus)

When the darkness appears and the night draws near,
and the day is past and gone,
at the river I stand, guide my feet, hold my hand;
take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

Is this really any different than Spirit of Life? If we say we’re good with a range of metaphors for the Divine, then Precious Lord should fit in next to Spirit of Life. And if we’re good with asking for that Spirit of Life to come, to change us, to offer comfort and insight, then maybe we can be okay with asking Precious Lord to come, to change us, to offer comfort and insight.

And thus, it’s in that spirit that I sing this song. Lord knows we could use it right now.

Of course, that is only half of why I went to church this morning. The other half was because of my YouTube search for a good rendition to share.

I began with this fairly simple, albeit country-fied version that helps folks new to the song learn it.

And then I clicked on this one:

And then this one:

And this one by Mahalia Jackson, which doesn’t allow embedding but is worth the click.

And amen, halleluiah, I have been to church.

Photo is of the one and only Mahalia Jackson.

3 Comments

  1. I love your comparison of this hymn to Spirit of Life! Also, I’ve read that this was Dr Martin Luther King’s favorite hymn, so it can be considered within the framework of finding strength and courage in the face of persecution and struggle. (And isn’t there even a story that one time Mahalia Jackson sang it to him over the phone?)

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