Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Way of the Cross – Jessie Brown Pounds

She loved her native area, the northern Ohio region around Cleveland, and was known for her many written works that spoke to the people of her birthplace. So, what did the 45-year old Jessie Brown Pounds endeavor to say, and to whom exactly was she speaking when she wrote “The Way of the Cross” in 1906? Was she at all influenced by her husband that she’d married 10 years earlier? And, what about her upbringing, and her parents’ backgrounds and influence on their daughter? And, the role of some of the educational institutions where she lived must have been at least somewhat important in the development of the young woman who aspired to be a writer from an early age. Her life experience shows the method God uses to promote His message musically.  

Several factors over a number of years converged in the spirit of Jessie Pounds in the early years of the 20th Century as she considered the way to live and make eternity certain.  Her father’s, Holland Brown’s, conversion to the Christian faith by Alexander Campbell led him to full-time ministry with the Disciples of Christ in northern Ohio, an area to which Jessie would be attached her whole life. Her mother was a schoolteacher, so it must have been second-nature for Jessie to study and glean lessons from not only her preacher-father, but also her teacher-mother. From her teenage years, she wanted to be a writer, and pursued this at Hiram College but had to relinquish a formal education due to poor health. It did expose her to the discussions among the institution’s learned professionals, however, and she was subsequently tutored as an editor for the Disciples’ Christian Standard publication. This budding writer would compose various tracts focused around the lifestyle of those in the greater Cleveland area—also known as the Western Reserve—over the next 40 years of her adult life. She married a minister, John Pounds, when she was 35, and his ministry in the Disciples of Christ must have also reaffirmed her inclination to write prose consistent with the group’s beliefs – Jesus and Him crucified, drawing others to Himself and Eternity. So, at age 45, Jessie was equipped to compose what she viscerally appreciated, a message that had been percolating for decades, in fact. It wasn’t her beliefs exclusively that she expressed in “The Way of the Cross”, but those also of her family, friends, and neighbors. ‘This is our core, how we plan to be transported from here to over there’, she articulates.   

She had a plan. And, she didn’t beat around the bush getting to the point when she wrote about her intentions spiritually. Her scheme is laid out in the opening sentence – ‘if I want to get home, the cross is the means’. It says something about her and others with whom she engaged in a common cause. Where is ‘home?’, someone might have asked before talking with Jessie. She and others like her would have wasted little time telling anyone what they knew. Now sure, there’d be lots more to say, and this writer must have considered how best to relate to whomever she encountered. But, after four and a half decades, Jessie had no lingering misgivings, no ‘maybes’ or ‘possibles’ in her song’s vocabulary. She knew. May we all.

Good biography of the composer:

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