Scripture Verse

Rise up, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you.@Ezekiel 3:22
portrait
William Heavner

Words: William Heavner, 2005.

Music: Opequon Church, William Heavener, 2003 (🔊 pdf nwc).

This hymn was com­posed for the ded­i­ca­tion of the fifth sanc­tu­a­ry to be built at Op­e­quon Pres­by­ter­i­an Church in Win­ches­ter, Vir­gin­ia.

Op­e­quon was found­ed in 1732 by the first Eur­o­pe­an set­tlers to the Shen­an­do­ah Val­ley of Vir­gin­ia. These ear­ly Ger­man, Scot, Iri­sh, and French set­tlers were of the re­formed faith. They first set­tled among the tol­er­ant Quak­ers of Penn­syl­van­ia. They longed for a place away from the es­tab­lished Eng­lish and Ro­man church­es where they could wors­hip free­ly in their own sim­ple but for­mal man­ner.

When word reached them that the Shen­an­do­ah Val­ley was open for set­tle­ment, they head­ed west, then south, down the Old Wag­on Road (to­day’s U.S. 11 and In­ter­state 81), to es­tab­lish the old­est con­gre­ga­tion west of the Blue Ridge Moun­tains.

From the first sim­ple log build­ing in the wild­er­ness where a teen­aged sur­vey­or was among the wor­ship­ers, to a larg­er log build­ing con­struct­ed dur­ing the time when that same sur­vey­or re­turned as a col­onel to over­see the con­struc­tion of a line of de­fens­ive fron­tier forts dur­ing the French and In­dian War.

Three years before the sur­vey­or, turned col­o­nel, and later gen­er­al, was about to take the oath of of­fice as the first pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, a dig­ni­fied stone meet­ing house was con­struct­ed. The build­ing stood for sev­en dec­ades be­fore Gen­er­al Stone­wall Jack­son suf­fered his on­ly defeat there at the First Bat­tle of Kerns­town.

Heavily dam­aged and stripped of its in­ter­ior, the build­ing sta­bled hors­es dur­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion that fol­lowed the Sec­ond Bat­tle of Kerns­town. As soon as pos­si­ble af­ter the end of the war, the con­gre­ga­tion re­stored their meet­ing house, on­ly to see it gut­ted by fire with­in a month.

Even with­out a build­ing of their own for the first time in 140 years, the now small con­gre­ga­tion con­tin­ued to wor­ship to­geth­er. Af­ter 20 years of shar­ing the neigh­bor­ing church­es of the Me­thod­ists and Men­non­ites, the con­gre­ga­tion was able to re­build their own church. From the re­claimed scorched stones of their old meet­ing house, they built a sim­ple late Vic­tor­ian church build­ing. For more than a cen­tu­ry this small­er sanc­tu­ary pro­vid­ed the wor­ship space un­til con­struc­tion of the pres­ent gen­er­ous sanc­tu­a­ry.

The tune was first played at the ground break­ing ser­vice for the fifth sanc­tu­ary of the church.

William Heavner, 2006

Grant me a valley, far from the nations,
Where I may dwell all my days.
There peace attends me, ’mid tribulations,
If I but walk in Your ways.
While furies rage and tremble the ground,
While fear and conflicts surround.
In that calm valley, my generations
Stand giving thanks, singing praise.

Where Your hand leads me, there shall I follow,
Trusting Your Word as my guide.
When others fail me, their pledge found hollow
Your grace and love fast abide.
Wilderness path or broad smooth highway
I’ll yield to You, Lord, the way.
The present I see. Not so, tomorrow,
Save that You walk by my side.

God the creator, who is and shall be,
Present in all time and place.
Be my defender, never forsake me.
Never from me, hide your face.
When cold descends and gathers the dark,
When night stills even the lark.
Be my protector, fold your hand o’er me.
I’ll shelter in its embrace.