Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lead Me to Calvary -- Jennie Evelyn Hussey

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

She may have been called most often ‘friend’ by her family and fellow believers, if you knew her faith background and also her general demeanor. Jennie Evelyn Hussey probably wore a smile, perhaps even as she composed “Lead Me to Calvary” with its focus on the poignant sacrifice of Christ. A humble, simple, yet courageous and tough spirit might have been the best way to describe Jennie. Perhaps that is why little is known of this New Englander of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, a woman who labored to bring Him attention. She would not have been one to toot her own horn. Let’s see why.

Hussey was raised and lived her entire life as a Quaker and caregiver in rural New Hampshire. Quakers (see their 8-point black and red symbol here) were known for their down-to-earth ways, purpose in listening for God’s Spirit, and to friendship within a body of believers who recognize each other as priests in need of no official clergy. ‘Friends’ was a common reference to Quaker churches, and Jennie Hussey was known to fit into this not only because of her faith, but also the life that she lived. She reportedly possessed an upbeat outlook, despite a life largely spent caring for a sister who was disabled. You can hear the obvious Quaker dialect of thee/thou/thine in her prose, as it’s in every one of the four verses she composed. But, is she also calling out to Him with her life’s struggle with the words ‘…thru the gloom..’ and ‘…to bear daily my cross…’ in the hymn’s final two verses? Was this a 47-year old who by 1921 had grown just a little weary of her life in rural New Hampshire? Perhaps her ‘friends’ and family would have known and identified with Jennie’s feelings, coming through in her poetry. No better friend had she than Jesus, who knew all about suffering, as she would have been reminded by her fellow Quakers.

Not much more is known of Jennie Evelyn Hussey, other than her fourth-generation Quaker roots and a vague, generalized life taking care of a sibling. She apparently did write 150 hymns, probably with the support and encouragement of family and friends. It must have been therapeutic at some level, as was poetry was for David and others who wrote to appeal to the Holy One. ‘I want to identify as one of your warriors’, Jennie might have said to God with her attitude and words, by ‘lifting up your life, sacrifice, and resurrection as my own mission’. Jesus said He called such people ‘friends’ (John 15:15). Hey, think about that the next time you see a ‘Friends Church’ sign over that simple, unspectacular-looking building.           

Information on the song was obtained from the books  “Amazing Grace – 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions”, by Kenneth W. Osbeck, 1990, Kregel Publications; and “The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J. and Ardythe Petersen, 2006, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 

See this site for some brief biographical information on composer:

See this link for history of the Quaker movement:

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