Singing The Gospel
Dr. David G. Roebuck
Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away; To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.
On Friday evening, April 3, I joined my voice with the voices of more than one hundred other singers and scholars proclaiming the familiar words of what is now one of America’s best known gospel songs. This much loved tune was the first song of an evening singing hosted by The Center for Popular Music in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The singing was part of “Farther Along” - a conference on the southern gospel convention singing tradition. Albert E. Brumley first published “I’ll Fly Away” in 1932, and I like so many others grew up singing it in church services and gospel singings.
Today the Church of God and Pentecostal movement use a wide range of musical styles. Many no longer sing Southern Gospel music, but the popularity of Bill Gaither’s “Homecoming” video series reveals that this is still a much-loved tradition. Certainly it has been an important part of our heritage. Our own Church Hymnal is one of the best known songbooks and many Church of God ministers and families have written songs and produced recordings over the years.
At the Farther Along Conference, Lee University’s Dr. Donald LeRoy presented a paper on the history of the Church Hymnal and Charles Towler spoke about the lasting legacy of the Church Hymnal. He also generously provided copies for the Friday evening singing. Jacquelyn Royal, from the staff of Lee University’s Squires Library, told about our efforts to digitize and preserve Southern Gospel recordings as well as catalog songbooks.
Whatever the future of this style of music in the Pentecostal movement, it has had extraordinary influence. We cannot fully understand where and who we are, if we do not know our heritage. At the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center we are committed to collecting and preserving songbooks, record albums, scholarly interpretations and other materials related to Southern Gospel music. We invite you to make donations of materials to add to our collections as well as financial resources to help us preserve them. We also welcome your visit to see what we are doing to preserve this and other aspects of our heritage.
Susan A. Fletcher
Halcy Olive Tomlinson was born on March 28, 1891 in Westfield, Indiana, the oldest child of Ambrose Jessup and Mary Jane Tomlinson. The family moved to Culberson, North Carolina in 1899 to become missionaries in Appalachia. By 1903 A.J. had joined a Holiness group at Camp Creek and became the leader of the movement soon to be known as the Church of God. In December 1904 the Tomlinsons moved to Cleveland where the children could attend school.
In the spring of 1906 Halcy turned fifteen at her house on Gaut Street and started a journal. She chronicled her adventures as a teenager in Cleveland, Tennessee, and a daughter of the Tomlinson household. Her fifteenth year brought hardships during her father’s missionary journeys, her first job at the Woolen Mill, and an increased faith in God.
Of all the letters and journals that we house at the Dixon Research Center, I think that Halcy’s is my favorite. The journal speaks so well to many of my interests including women’s history, the history of childhood and adolescence, as well as family and local history. Halcy was a sharp observer of the world around her and her diary is revealing. Her father, General Overseer A.J. Tomlinson, kept a journal of his own that recorded the progress of his ministry. Halcy’s diary, however, gives us a better picture of the family dynamics in the Tomlinson household in addition to a rare portrait of what life was like for a fifteen-year-old girl living in Cleveland, Tennessee in 1906.
In this blog series, I will be posting some of Halcy’s entries and will be discussing some of them. Today is April 1, 2008 so I’ll start off by posting Halcy’s first entries from the very end of March, one-hundred-two years ago. You can read more about her in the April 2007 issue of the Church of God Evangel, or you can visit the Dixon Research Center and read her diary for yourself. If you have any comments about the journal, you can post them on our message board, or you can E mail me at “sfletcher at leeuniversity.edu” (See how I’m trying to outwit the spammers?) Until then, happy reading!
Halcy Tomlinson March 28, 1906
“Well, well, dear old Journal I hardly know how to begin. It can’t be like Docia, because I am fifteen today and she was just twelve. And then, I like our dear little room; ‘our’ means my little sister Iris Marea who is eleven years old and myself. Although our room is most as bare as hers, yet we like it ..Our glass is not broken, yet it is small, and instead of having a patched quilt on the bed ours has a nice white coverlet on it. Our stand is made of a box and our washstand is too. Mamma made them herself. Oh, I have the dearest mama in the world, and I just love her with all my heart. I went to school today; it is Wednesday. I got along all right, and didn’t have to stay in. I have a good teacher. Her name is Miss Marea Ransome. I am in the sixth grade. We came to Cleveland just a little over a year ago, and I like to live here all right. Papa is a minister and he is so good to me. He isn’t home near all the time, and oh, we are so glad when he comes home again from his appointments of preaching. It is a bad rainy day today, but it is most always bad on my birthday because it is in clustery March. And they say I am about like March in my ways too, but I just can’t help it. I try to be just as good as I can, and I love everybody because I love Jesus. I am not like Docia in the respect either for I love Jesus and she didn’t when she began her journal, and He is so good to me. If I want anything that I really need, I just as Him, like anyone else would their father. Papa hasn’t any special salary, and the people where he preaches are not overly rich and many are real poor. They are good to give all they can, but that doesn’t near meet all the expenses. But the Bibles says, ‘He shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’ And He does supply our needs some way or other.
“Now dear Journal I am just telling you everything but you won’t be put in print like Docia’s journal. I hardly guess anyone will even read this, so I will write whatever I want to.
“I have gotten three whippings today. Marea and my brother Homer - he is between my sister and myself - and a friend (Amanda Haney) boarding here with us, whipped me sixteen stripes apiece because they said I had to have one to grow on. I got some presents today but will not mention them here.”
Halcy Tomlinson March 31, 1906
“O dear, will warm weather ever come! This is the last day of March, and it is real cool for this time of year. I feel real blue this morning. We have happened to a disappointment. We were aiming to have our house painted this spring and furnished better than it is, but we have failed to accomplish what we aimed to. It surely must be nice to be rich and have plenty of money, yet we ought to be contented for what we have for I am sure He knows better than we. Papa and Mamma are both sick, and our cow Rosie died only a few days ago. It does seem terrible to have to be sick, especially anyone so good as Mamma and Papa are.
“And poor Papa has to go away to fill one of his appointments, too, this evening, and will be gone over Sunday. In one way I am glad for him to go if he can do any good, but I am sorry on Mamma’s account. She said she always wanted Papa to be at home if she is feeling bad. And then, we all like for Papa to be at home. I heard Mama say only today she would like awful well to have a new coat. She hasn’t had a new coat this winter. If I were only rich I would get her one. Doesn’t it seem strange some people can have everything they want while others can’t have even the things they need? But the Lord knows best about everything. His will be done.”