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Presbyterians to host 144th Memorial Day Service

At 10:30 a.m. worship on Sunday, May 25, Tyrone Presbyterians will include two flag pledges, three patriotic carols, a World War II piano solo, and a Civil War battle hymn as they remember  Memorial Day, which began 144 years ago in 1864, in nearby Boalsburg, PA.
To open worship, the young people will lead the audience first, in the pledge to the Christian Flag, and next, in the pledge to the American Flag. The pledge to the Christian flag originated in a Coney Island chapel in New York in 1897. On September 26, 1897, a Sunday School superintendent named Charles Overton improvised the first pledge to the Christian Flag as part of a Rally Day Program for a young people’s Sunday School.
The pledge to the American Flag originated in 1892 from the pen of a New York teacher named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy composed the American Flag pledge for a New York City school program to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus Day. Bellamy first published the flag pledge in the young people’s magazine entitled Youth Companion in 1892. In 1954, with much encouragement from President Dwight Eisenhower, the phrase “Under God” became part of the American Flag pledge.
During worship, the audience will sing a panorama of patriotic carols. After the flag pledge, they will sing the 1814 flag song entitled “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key. Attorney Francis Key composed the National Anthem on September 13, 1814, after being held prisoner on a ship near Baltimore, by the British. All night from his prison ship in Baltimore Harbor, Key watched the British fire on Fort McHenry. In the morning, the American Flag still waved over that early American fort, and Key celebrated that miracle by writing “O Say Can You See, By The Dawn’s Early Light.”
Incidentally, the flag over Fort McHenry celebrated by Mr. Key took 400 yards of wool to create, measured 30 by 42 feet, and cost $406 in early American money. A lady by the name of Mary Young Pickersgill sewed the big flag. Surprisingly, Congress did not declare Francis Scott Key’s song about this huge flag as America’s National Anthem until 1931.
Presbyterians also will celebrate this 144th anniversary of Memorial Day by singing Samuel Smith’s 1832 hymn entitled, “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee.” By composing this hymn, Harvard graduate and Baptist minister Samuel Smith wanted to create a song that would allow Americans to praise God for the blessings of their new country. Church members also will lift their voices in singing the 1893 patriotic carol entitled, “America The Beautiful.” While teaching summer school English in Colorado Springs in 1893, Bates drew inspiration from the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains and found the inspiration to compose “America The Beautiful.” As her song unfolded, Bates celebrated America’s land, founders, heroes, and dreams.
At the Offertory, church organist Richard Merryman will transport listeners to 1942, with a piano  patriotic solo made popular at the height of World War II – “They’ll Be Bluebirds Over, The White Cliffs Of Dover.” Composed by Americans Walter Kent and Nat Burton (who never had seen the White Cliffs of Dover), the song soared to instant success in 1942, when people like Vera Lynn and Kate Smith sang it. In 1944, it served as the theme song for a movie called The White Cliffs Of Dover, starring Irene Dunn and Elizabeth Taylor. The song promised strength for today and bright hopes for tomorrow,  as British and American Forces united against the Nazi Terror of the Second World War.
Quite appropriately, the Westminster Choir will perform a popular song from another war – the Civil War. The choir singers will recall Julia Ward Howe’s 1862 Civil War battle hymn entitled, “Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory Of The Coming Of The Lord.” Miss Howe composed this hymn because she tired of hearing the despicable “John Brown’s Body Lies A Molding In The Grave” sung to such a quality American marching melody. Hearing the battle hymn for the first time, President Abraham Lincoln’s eyes filled with tears, and he insisted, “sing it again please!”
Without a doubt, Julia Ward Howe’s battle hymn belongs with Memorial Day, since it evolved just two years before the birth of Memorial Day in 1864, in nearby Boalsburg, PA. According to historians in  Boalsburg, 144 years ago, in October 1864, three women of that village – Emma Hunter, Elizabeth Myers, and Sophie Keller – walked to the Boalsburg Cemetery to spread wildflowers on the graves of Doctor Reuben Hunter and Amos Myers – both of whom had died in the Civil War.
On that October day, the three women promised each other that they would return to the cemetery the next Summer, once again to remember their loved ones. When these three ladies returned on July 4, 1865, all the people of Boalsburg, joined them, the villagers “decorated” all the graves with flowers and flags, and Memorial Day was born with a service of remembrance.
By 1868, General John Logan, Commander in Chief of the Army of the Republic, issued an order that each year, citizens should set aside May 30 as a day for “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in service to their country. In 1971, Decoration Day (May 30) became Memorial Day (final Monday of May) to provide federal workers with a holiday weekend to open the summer.
As the 144th anniversary of America’s Memorial Day unfolds this weekend, why not join Tyrone Presbyterians at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 25, 2008 for a service of remembrance that will include two flag pledges, three patriotic carols, a World War II piano solo, and a Civil War battle hymn all intended so that people “will not forget” those who gave their last full measure of devotion to this country we call America.