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

William Heavner, 2005.

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.