Friday, April 15, 2011

Lelia Naylor Morris

Gospel song writer Lelia Naylor Morris was born today in 1862. After the death of her father, her mother opened a millinery shop in McConnelsville, Ohio, to support the family and Lelia learned to sew there. She also showed an early interest in music, and practiced the piano at a neighbor's house because her family could not afford one. By age twelve she was playing the organ for local prayer meetings.

She did not begin writing and composing gospel songs until she was thirty, ten years after her marriage to Charles H. Morris. She has been working as a seamstress, but her long association with church music both as a singer and an organist probably led her to composition. She reportedly kept a pad of paper nearby to write down the texts as inspiration struck, and she composed the music at the organ of the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church in McConnellsville where she served for many years as organist.

She would eventually write more than a thousand gospel songs, and many early twentieth century hymnbooks contain more than a dozen of them (always credited to Mrs. C. H. Morris).

Do we live so close to the Lord today,
Passing to and fro on life’s busy way,
That the world in us can a likeness see
To the Christ of Calvary?

Can the world see Jesus in me?
Can the world see Jesus in you?
Does your love to him ring true,
And your life and service, too?
Can the world see Jesus in you?

As an open book they our lives will read,
To our words and acts giving daily heed;
Will they be attracted, or turn away
From the Christ of Calvary?

Lelia Naylor Morris, 1917; alt.

CHRIST'S EXAMPLE ( with refrain)

Morris lost her eyesight in later years but found various ways to continue writing songs. Her songs traveled around the world; during her lifetime several of them were translated into various languages and used by Methodist missionaries (including one of her daughters).

Two Years Ago:
Lelia Naylor Morris

No comments: