Saturday, June 18, 2016

Servant Song – Anonymous and Jack Boyd

This professor-emeritus of music in a Texas school was, probably most would say, well past his prime, yet he thought for a while about being a servant when he put his mind to crafting some verses for a familiar song when he was a septuagenarian. (Check out this old map-picture of Abilene, TX, the site of our song for this week.) Jack Boyd may have even remembered when “Servant Song” (also known as “Make Me a Servant”) was still brand-new, and its original composer was unknown, but that didn’t stop him from adding two verses to it in 2009. It’s not clear how long servants have been singing the original verse of this song, and one might still confuse this version and Boyd’s two verses with a 1977 song about servanthood by Richard Gillard. But, this traditional version and Boyd’s two verses maintain a central theme-audience…Him above.

Jack Boyd had been around for some seven decades by the time he decided servanthood was something he wanted to address in 2009. Certainly, it wasn’t the first time this teacher of music at an Abilene university had served people. And, as a guru of Christian music, he probably was also familiar with Gillard’s ‘Servant Song’ that has its singers addressing one another. Boyd had been about the business of serving God through music since before he took a degree from the same university in 1955 where he subsequently taught for so many years. Fourteen books, scores of hymnals and compositions, and thousands of students and concerts later, Jack Boyd could have looked back with a sense of satisfaction and retired as the first decade of the 21st Century rolled along. But, he remained active with the Alumni choral reunions at Abilene, and he must have been well along in that role when he crafted his two verses about serving. Evidently, Jack wanted to keep the audience of the traditional song as the original anonymous composer intended when he added his words to it. They’re directed straight up to God, asking Him for divine molding and directing. He’s the model, Boyd acknowledged, even for someone who’s been following Him for a while and has the gray-turned-to-white and wrinkles of a 77-year old. We Christians do indeed serve our fellow humans, but the mentoring role of my Creator in my life of service hasn’t ended just because He ascended.

Serving isn’t just a temporary thing, is it? It’s not like dieting, which I might abandon eventually, bringing back the pounds. Instead, it’s a lifestyle. If I ever stop helping others voluntarily, maybe I never really sang the ‘Servant Song’ in tune. ‘Make me like You’, Jack said in 2009. He was retired in one sense, but certainly not yet done. ‘Stay young’, someone says, but how? Just ask the professor in Abilene.       

Here’s a blog entry at the university where the composer was on staff for many years:

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