Friday, April 15, 2016

Lelia Naylor Morris

Today is the birthday of Lelia Naylor Morris, who reportedly wrote more than a thousand gospel songs in her lifetime (only a fraction of them are available to see online). Born in Ohio, she and her four siblings were primarily raised by her mother after the death of her father, a Civil War veteran. 

Lelia began studying piano as a child, practicing at a neighbor's house because her family could not afford one at home, and by age 12 she was playing the organ for prayer meetings. She learned to sew in her mother's millinery shop and expected that she would probably work there for the rest of her life, even after her marriage to Methodist minister Charles Morris. 

She and her husband often attended revivals and outdoor camp meetings, and eventually she tried her hand at writing some songs (both words and music) in that style, which were taken up by the revival leaders and eventually began to be published.  She became very successful at this and continued to attend the camp meetings, which in turn inspired her to write more, based on the stories and testimonies of the other worshippers.

Out on life’s ocean with perils ever nigh,
I have a pilot on whom I can rely;
With him to guide me, life’s storms I can defy,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Jesus, my pilot on life’s stormy sea,
This wondrous Christ of Galilee;
I’m safe in his keeping,
Tho’ storms are round me sweeping,
This pilot of Galilee.

Wondrous his power and matchless is his skill,
Billows and tempests obey his sovereign will.
Hushed into silence at his blest "Peace, be still,"
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Fierce was the tempest once raging in my soul,
When of my bark he, my pilot, took control.
With voice commanding above the thunder’s roll,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Hear it, ye storm-tossed, with grief and with sin,
Why will ye not take the heav’nly pilot in?
Safely he’ll guide you, the haven blest to win,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Lelia N. Morris, 1912; alt.
Tune: PILOT OF GALILEE (Irregular with refrain)
Lelia N. Morris, 1912

Eight Years Ago: Ada Rose Gibbs

Seven Years Ago: Lelia Naylor Morris

Five Years Ago: Lelia Naylor Morris

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