By Thomas Coker, Minister of Music
This is a story of how grace is given and received in unexpected ways when one is following the Spirit through inspiration – in this case, the inspiration of text and music written by John Rutter and being rehearsed by the South Main Sanctuary Choir.
At the end of July this year, I completed a two year stint as Church Vice President of the Texas Choral Directors Association, a wonderful organization which brings together choral directors from all over the state and beyond to encourage choral singing in our state.
One of the duties of the Church Vice President is to plan and execute a worship service for the convention. We were remarkably fortunate this past year to have Mr. John Rutter of London, England reprise his visit of 30 years ago to TCDA. We built that worship service around the three anthems, For the Beauty of the Earth, Open Thou My Eyes, & Lord, Make Me an Instrument Mr. Rutter had written for TCDA in 1980. I asked Mr. Rutter if he would be so good as to write a new anthem for us in 2010 to complete the service we were planning. Mr. Rutter agreed to this even though he no longer accepts commissions and keeps an incredibly busy schedule as composer/producer/arranger. The anthem he wrote for us, With heart and hands is being prepared in October and November for the South Main worship service November 21 just before Thanksgiving. Our choir loves it, and you will too.
A little background for those who do not know Bruce and Kristy Wade and the twins, John and Christian: Kristy lost her husband, Bruce, to brain cancer – the same kind of brain cancer that took Senator Ted Kennedy. Bruce was in his early 40’s and in spite of his relatively young age, had accomplished much. He was a geo-physicist who was a very important part of the discovery teams for Exxon (10 years) and Shell (13 years). He was instrumental in uncovering oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, in Oman, and natural gas reserves in Malaysia. These discoveries have helped make energy reserves available to many more people in different parts of the globe.
In 2008, Bruce’s cancer was discovered and the Wades relocated to Houston – Shell’s US headquarters and the location of the Texas Medical Center’s MD Anderson hospital, one of the world’s finest cancer treatment hospitals. Just before the cancer was diagnosed, Bruce & Kristy had decided to begin their family. Bruce’s very first question to his neuro-oncologist after arriving in Houston concerned the effects of the chemo and radiation on fathering a child. In the midst of beginning treatment, the plan to start a family paralleled the treatment. Following several disappointments, Kristy and Bruce wound up with “a miracle or two.” Kristy conceived twins! She was “great with child” – children actually – as Bruce was rapidly declining. The twin boys (Christian and John) were born shortly before Bruce died. We (South Main) and numerous friends from across the globe walked with them through this terrible and blessed time. I remember Bruce’s coming to the Christmas Eve Choir rehearsal with Kristy last year and sitting on the side near the tenor section. It was to be the last time he would do that. During Bruce’s illness, Kristy chronicled his progress and her thoughts on the Caringbridge web site during treatment. She continues to post her thoughts there following Bruce’s death.
Fast forward to this month and the choir’s rehearsing With heart and hands. I had noticed three weeks ago that Kristy left rehearsal when we began rehearsing the anthem. The next week she remained in the room and wept and sang when she could. That night, she talked with me following rehearsal and told me part of what she would post later that evening. Below is an excerpt of Kristy Wade’s post in Caringbridge September 29, 2010.
So…after all that, tonight at choir rehearsal we practiced a piece composed by John Rutter, With heart and hands, for the Texas Choral Directors Association Convention in July of this year. Last week I only tried to sing the first two lines before exiting the room for the duration. This week I stayed and listened — and occasionally tried to sing a line here or there. Hopefully I’m not infringing on any copyrights or anything, but Rutter’s text is as follows:
“For all the blessings you have granted us, Lord, give us thankful hearts, we pray: For life and health and happiness, And for the gift of each new day; For all our families and loved ones, The friends we meet along our way, We thank you, Lord, they are your gifts: Lord, we praise you, In your service let us all your love repay.
“Look all around you: You’ll see a miracle or two; Ev’ry valley, hill and mountain is calling to you. For all the wonders of creation, a world whose marvels we behold: Where winter turns to spring again; The changing scenes of life unfold, But there is One who never changes: Through all eternity the same: Be with us, Lord, for evermore, alleluia, Lord, we praise your Holy Name.”
That first section is like going back in time and hearing again nearly every prayer I and others heard Bruce say from the time of his diagnosis until his death. And the second part is like hearing his voice right now.
I have written Mr. Rutter to let him know of the grace given and received through his text and music. My prayers are that grace will continue to abound through the life of Kristy, Christian and John and the music and life of Mr. Rutter.