Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. [Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)]
Back in 1765, Dr. John Fawcett became the pastor of a small church in Wainsgate, England. Although his congregation of farmers and shepherds paid him a modest salary and donated wool and potatoes to them, the growing Fawcett family struggled to make ends meet. When a prestigious London church extended a call to him, Fawcett accepted and preached his farewell sermon. The family’s belongings were loaded on their wagon when parishioners gathered around him and begged him to stay. When his wife cried, “Oh John, John, I cannot bear this,” the pastor agreed. He ordered the wagon unloaded and remained at that parish for 54 years. Tradition has it that Fawcett wrote the words to “Blest be the Tie” in commemoration of that day.
I thought of that old hymn as we packed up our car last month. Having sold our Colorado house, we were departing from our beloved mountain town. It has been our winter home for more than twenty-five years and we’ll miss the skiing and snowshoeing, the après ski fun, our revolving door of visiting friends and family, the bluebird skies and knee-deep powder, meeting people on the gondola, treks through the snowy woods, the winter carnival and torchlight parades, and the juxtaposition of cowboys, skiers, ranchers, snowboarders, tourists, locals, mountain bikers, fishermen, ski racers and rodeo riders that made our town so unique.
We shed no tears when bidding farewell to our house, skis, snowshoes, parkas and other gear. We did, however, shed tears at leaving our Colorado friends and the friendships that grew, not from a love of the mountains but from our mutual love of God. Caretakers we inherited from our home’s previous owner became our first town friends and their faith through the years was inspiring. A hairstylist with spiked purple hair guided us to friendships in a youth ministry and that SK8 church ministry led to even more friendships with people of faith. A sign on the bus led us to a church that offered much more than an opportunity to worship and hear the word of God—it offered fellowship and friendship with other believers and we became part of a family of followers. A friend introduced me to a women’s ministry which now connects me to twelve other Christian women writers. There is a tie that binds us all together that has nothing to do with snow reports, mountain conditions, or hiking trails—it has to do with our shared love of Jesus and faith in God.
Unlike Pastor Fawcett, we couldn’t change our minds and unload our car at the last minute. A new family has moved into our home and new memories will be made there. Unlike him, I’ve not written a hymn to commemorate our departure. I will, however, share his words and thank God for the tie of love that binds us together with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above. …
We share each other’s woes, Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again. …
From sorrow, toil and pain, And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign Through all eternity. [John Fawcett]