Catherine Venable Moore — Writer & Producer

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Golden Gospel Gems

In Cedar Grove, Current Projects, Mary Lee Settle, Uncategorized, West Virginia History on January 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm

IMG_3616On a recent visit to Cedar Grove, I visited Virginia’s Chapel, a.k.a. The Old Brick Church. Inside, I found a pile of “Golden Gospel Gems.” These simple hymnals are adorned with a sketch of the church on the cover, but an original hymn inside is the real find. “The Old Brick Church,” written in 1948 by one M. Homer Cummings, fondly describes the speaker’s childhood church by the side of the road and the inspiring songs he sang there.

(Oh, the dearest spot on this earth to me Is the church of my childhood days! … Gospel songs and hymns we would often sing: “Beulah Land” and “Amazing Grace”)

He continues on to list several other favorite hymns, but what’s interesting is that the first he mentions is “Beulah Land,” also the title of one of the novels in Mary Lee Settle’s Beulah Quintet. It makes me wonder whether childhood church services at Cedar Grove also inspired Settle’s naming of her project. Or whether she, too, found a stray copy of “Golden Gospel Gems” on a visit to Cedar Grove.

Turns out Cummings was a hymner born in 1890 near Pickaway in Monroe County. A 1916 bio from “A History of Monroe County” refers to a self-published hymnal called “Echoes from Beulah.” Seems he and Settle had a shared interest.

Beulah is a Biblical reference from 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.

The verse inspired a hymn by Edgar Page Stites. Here’s the chorus, also an epigraph to Settle’s 1956 novel, O Beulah Land:

O Beulah land, sweet Beulah land!
As on thy highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea
Where mansions are prepared for me
And view the shining glory shore
My heaven, my home forever more.