Open/Close Menu A ReconcilingWorks (RIC) Congregation in Charlotte, NC

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This year Holy Trinity is celebrating its 100th year of ministry. Our Anniversary Committee began meeting nearly three years ago to make plans. One of the things we did early on was establish a budget. We debated whether or not we would commission an anniversary anthem. When considering the pros and cons, we decided there were a lot of other things we wanted to spend our money on, so the idea of an anniversary anthem was nixed.

Late last fall, unbeknownst to me, an email was circulated among our choir members about having an anniversary anthem commissioned. When I caught wind of it, I was more than a little perturbed. We made the decision not to do this, and we hadn’t budgeted for it. Now a few people were taking it upon themselves to come up with the dollars to make it happen. Grrrrrr.

As part of our Anniversary Celebration, we decided to have a Centennial Campaign to give thanks by giving back. After years of capital campaigns at Holy Trinity that were always dedicated to gathering money for necessary repairs to our physical facility, we’re in a better place today — we’re in a position to give to others, outside our congregation. We allocated where the money would go and invited our members to give. I was bound and determined that if we were going to ask for money for our anniversary, it would be to give the money away, not to spend it on ourselves. So, this little non-sanctioned funding project for an anthem was really getting under my skin. I did everything I could to put a kibosh on it. It wasn’t going to happen!

But they wouldn’t let it go.

The week of Christmas, with our anniversary year only a week away, I had a brilliant idea. What if someone (like me) wrote an anniversary hymn that we could sing on our anniversary Sundays? Wouldn’t that satisfy those who were clamoring for an anthem to be commissioned? So, on Christmas Eve, I was inspired to write a hymn text simply to put a stop to all this talk of an anniversary anthem. I decided to use the tune of “Shenandoah”, which has always been a favorite of mine. The words were inspired by our anniversary banners shown here.


Beside a stream of living water
Stands a tree of God’s blest people,
Its roots run deep, from those before us.
By grace, it grows by grace, the love of God abounding.

A hundred rings, a living hist’ry,
Some are thin from years of struggle,
Some circle wide from times of plenty.
By grace, it grows by grace, the love of God abounding

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The branches soar beyond the steeple,
Leaves as varied as its people;
So many gifts, and yet one Body.
By grace, it grows by grace, the love of God abounding.

O tree of life, O tree of glory,
May our witness tell God’s story
For all who follow in the future.
By grace, it grows by grace, the love of God abounding.

I wasn’t sure how folks would receive the hymn, but on the Sunday in January when it made its debut, it was a resounding success. Mission accomplished. Now we could stop talking about that blasted anthem.

Well, our big anniversary blow-out worship is on April 24, and you aren’t going to believe what’s about to happen. After I wrote the hymn text, our Director of Music, Ron Ellis, contacted a friend of mine, who happens to be a wonderful composer of church music, Tom Keesecker. Behind my back, Tom was commissioned to write a choir anthem from the hymn text I had written for our anniversary. By the time I learned of it, what could I do? I realized that I’d lost this battle. So on our big Anniversary Sunday, the choir will be singing, “Beside a Stream of Living Water” – text: Nancy Kraft, arrangement: Tom Keesecker.

What can I say? I’m so humbled by this honor. And I’m glad that sometimes my people know better than to listen to me. What a gracious act of kindness from a faith community that has done nothing but love me for the past eleven years. Often despite my best efforts to thwart that love, it seems they just can’t help themselves.

And now, here’s the kicker. The anthem has a publisher—Choristers Guild. Isn’t that just perfect! I didn’t want us to have an anthem commissioned for our anniversary and I ended up writing it myself–without knowing I was writing it. And I’ll even be receiving royalties.

Just another ironic episode from my totally ironic life.