Yesterday I shared this story in the sermon. Joe Head, part of our Grace family, loves hymns and he shared the link with me that detailed Dr. McAfee’s experience. (https://www.staugustine.com/article/20160218/LIFESTYLE/302189922) I’ve copied some of it directly for you…and added a beautiful rendition by a one-man quartet–a native Zambian who can sing all the parts, yes all the parts, by himself.

This is a tragic story. However, a wonderful song was born during the human suffering and sadness told about in this narrative. It took place in Parkville, Missouri in the early 1900s.

Dr. Cleland McAfee (1866-1944), a Presbyterian minister who served for many years on the faculty of Park College, a church-related school, was also a pastor who served several churches.

He found that unexpected problems or crises may come into our lives. We often cannot escape the pressures and shadows that accompany those problems. However, they can be faced with spiritual strength, which God provides. This is the message expressed in the song told about in this story.

When tragedy struck a family, it was natural that they would turn to McAfee, the pastor, for consolation. The affliction told about in this story came much closer to his heart and it was two-fold.

In 1903, two of his brother’s young daughters succumbed to diphtheria. They died within 24 hours of each other.

The double catastrophe broke McAfee’s heart. However, the situation was made even more difficult by the fact that his brother’s house had to be quarantined to prevent the spread of terrifying diphtheria. People were unable to go inside to express their condolences, and the family could not be permitted to leave the house to attend funeral services. You might ask, “How could it have been worse?”

McAfee sat up very late, praying and pondering what he could say in a sermon the following Sunday and what kind of music he could compose to bring comfort to his family and the congregation. The wonderful hymn presented in this story was the outcome of his meditation.

The choir learned the new song at their regular Saturday evening practice. From there, they went to the quarantined home of the Howard McAfee family and sang the new hymn beneath the darkened windows. They also shared the song with the congregation at the Communion Service, the following day.

Here are the lyrics:

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

2 Comments

  1. Wow what a truly wonderful gift from God this gentleman has.I listened to all the songs.Songs that I grew up on.Yesterday was a different day for all of our family because we all gather at my moms and have the big Easter lunch after church.My mom sent me a text early in morn to tell me Happy Easter, I began to cry.Then I remembered that I should be rejoicing because of a risen Savior who died on the cross for me, and that there will be many days that our family can get together and enjoy each other after the storm (virus) passes.Than you for a wonderful message yesterday.

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  2. You’re welcome. Yes, these times are different and your tears are ok. But God is faithful and will see us through this time. How wonderful it will be when we can gather together again!

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