Sunday, April 15, 2012
Nearer my God to Thee
Today is the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. On this day the so-called unsinkable ship collided with an iceberg with the loss of over 1500 lives in the early hours of the morning. Only 710 passengers and crew were rescued.
The sinking of the Titanic is an epic story of mistakes, error and misjudgement, including missing binoculars, insufficient lifeboats, and foolhardy navigation in known iceberg waters. It is a story of loss and rescue, fear and courage on a cold still night one hundred years ago.
One of those who went down with the ship was Wallace Hartley, band leader on RMS Titanic. The bravery of Wallace Hartley and the band whilst they played on as the ship sank is legendary. After the collision they played ragtime music. The hymn Nearer my God to Thee has long been associated with Hartley and his band as the last hymn the band played.
Hartley was raised in Bethel Independent Methodist Chapel in Colne, Lancashire. It was there that his choirmaster father introduced this moving hymn to the congregation. For Wallace Hartley, death was not the end, but the doorway to eternal life. Some 40,000 people lined the streets for his funeral.
Wallace Hartley was one of a number of Methodists who acted courageously in desperate circumstances over the years. Another is South Australian Methodist leader Daniel Draper who called out to fellow passengers to “make for the port of heaven” during the sinking of the steamship London in 1854, accompanied by singing the hymn Rock of Ages.
When a mine accident trapped men and boys deep underground in 1880, Primitive Methodist Richard Cole stepped to the fore. He ministered as a “dying man to dying men” during the Seaham colliery disaster, when 164 men and boys perished. He wrote in chalk that “every man was ready for glory” after they had had a prayer meeting.
As for me, I know not when or how my last day will come. But this I know, in the words of an old hymn, “Redeeming love shall be my theme until the day I die”.
Every man ready for glory
Did faith drive the Titanic musicians?
Nearer my God to Thee
Rock of Ages
There is a fountain filled with blood