Sunday, March 7, 2010

If Your Line Is Grounded

On this date in 1876, the United States Patent Office issued Patent #174,465 to Alexander Graham Bell for “the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically ... by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound,” or, as we know it now, the telephone. Three days later Bell finally achieved his initial goal when his famous quote “Mr. Watson, come here -- I want to see you” was transmitted between rooms of his workshop to his waiting assistant.

Over the next century the telephone developed from that primitive “apparatus” into a device that was, for better or for worse, present in most American households. In the last twenty years, advances in telephone technology have spread its use even farther, so that every individual person in that household can now carry one around in one's pocket.

We were nowhere near that point in 1919; the telephone was still a rather new invention, but it was at least known to most people. I suppose it may have seemed slightly miraculous to many, which brings us to this gospel song published in that year by
Nazarene pastor Frederick M. Lehman, likening the process of prayer to talking on the telephone.

Central’s never “busy,” always on the line;
You may hear from Heaven almost any time;
’Tis a royal service, free for one and all;
When you get in trouble, give this royal line a call.

Telephone to glory, O what joy divine!
I can feel the current moving on the line,
Built by God the Father for His loved and own,
We may talk to Jesus thru this royal telephone.

There will be no charges, telephone is free,
It was built for service, just for you and me;
There will be no waiting on this royal line,
Telephone to glory always answers just in time.

Fail to get the answer, Satan’s crossed your wire,
By some strong delusion, or some base desire;
Take away obstructions, God is on the throne,
And you’ll get your answer through this royal telephone.

If your line is “grounded,” and connection true
Has been lost with Jesus, tell you what to do;
Prayer and faith and promise, mend the broken wire,
’Till your soul is burning with the Pentecostal fire.

Carnal combinations cannot get control
Of this line to glory, anchored in the soul;
Storm and trial cannot disconnect the line,
Held in constant keeping by the Father’s hand divine.

Frederick Lehman, 1919
Tune: THE ROYAL TELEPHONE ( with refrain)
arr. Claudia Lehman Mays, 1919

This seems somewhat amusing to us today, but the idea of writing a song of praise to God with a technological theme is not altogether unknown. Offhand, I'm thinking of Life in the Loom by Mary Lathbury, and there are probably others. And I guess you could include Earth and all stars, a 1968 (copyrighted) hymn by Herbert Brokering which includes the lines:

Classrooms and labs, loud boiling test-tubes,
Sing to the Lord a new song!

but I don't know of any hymns yet about iPods or laptop computers.

Frederick Lehman published five volumes for congregational singing called Songs That Are Different, which included some other unusual numbers, such as one called John Barleycorn Is Dead, King Nicotine Must Die (we haven't talked much here about temperance hymns and hymnals, but they were big business too). Lehman wrote more conventional hymns and songs as well. including The Love of God, which seems to be enjoying a resurgence in recent years.


Dorothy said...

How about "God of Concrete, God of Steel" by Richard G. Jones? Does that count for a modern technology hymn?

As for hymns about computers and ipods, maybe we should be writing them!

Dorothy said...

Oh, and this telephony hymn...I'm sending it on to my husband who works on telephone equipment.

C.W.S. said...

That one should count, Dorothy, though I have mixed feelings about writing more of them!

Leland Bryant Ross said...

Did I not mention this one we heard (and thoroughly enjoyed) at a recording session last November.

The Whateverly Brothers

Joe Prater

Last night I talked to Jesus on the World Wide Web
I found Him on the internet and this is what he said
Son, you don't need computers and all them fancy things
All you need's your bible to hear the angels sing

You don't need no software except what you got on
And you don't need no hardware 'cept what He wrote on stone
You can't download salvation; you can't click your mouse on faith
Follow the commandments and you'll reach the pearly gates

You don't need no modems just to talk to Him
All the gigabytes in the whole wide world won't save your soul from sin
You see, Satan's got a webpage and he wants you to click on
The road to Hell is broad and straight and paved with CD ROMs

The next time that you're on line and surfing on the net
Put this in your hard drive and remember what I said
The best way you can talk to Him is on your knees in prayer
You don't need no email to reach the man upstairs

C.W.S. said...

This actually seems more like an anti-technology hymn, though it does make use of the theme.

Nice to see you back for a bit.