Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers, Douglas Bond
(Christian Liberty Press, 1999), pb., 242 pp.

This was a delightful read! We are officially Douglas Bond fans now! This book is significantly different from the Crown & Covenant books, however. In fact, as we began this book, my boys thought it was a bit slow coming out of a run of books which included battles, etc. However, they were soon caught up in this story as was I.

The story follows is centered around a summer spent in England by two fairly typical American children, Annie & Drew. At the beginning they expect to be miserably bored spending a summer in an old town named Olney. However, once they meet Mr. Pipes, the organist of the local Anglican church, everything changes. Pipes, an older Englishman, enthralls them with stories about hymn writers, their faith and their adventure amidst taking them fishing, exploring and sailing on the river Ouse. Along the way they learn many things about British culture and cuisine as well. The great truths found in the hymns they learn come to life as they hear them and see their reality in Mr. Pipes. In the end both children, who previously had attended church just on occasion, express their faith in Christ.

There is so much to admire in this book. What drew my boys in was the description of a great holiday- sailing, fishing, visiting key historical places, etc. I found myself longing for just such a holiday, myself! There were great places for laughter and excitement in the reading. Then, the deliberate straightforward advocacy of the great hymns was thrilling to me. We already sing hymns with our children, at home and in church, but it was great to have a fun book which reinforced this and in many ways explained why this is a key value in our family. It was also fun to learn some new hymns.

Furthermore, the description of the spiritual awakening of the children, particularly Drew, was very well done. It was not the standard cookie-cutter evangelical portrayal. Rather, Drew begins to note the real joy expressed in the hymns, how they cut across his sinful nature, how they look to eternity in contrast to his lack of preparedness for eternity. The fictional Mr. Pipes is a good evangelist. He is not merely interested in getting these children to repeat some words. He is looking for conversion, a change of heart. As things develop, and they are contemplating the hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” Pipes says to them:

There exists no greater privilege in all the world than membership in Christ’s true church. …
I want you both to be lovers of Christ’s church- yes, with all her warts- for she ever shall prevail, and those in her true communion on high will dwell with our blessed Redeemer Who bought His bride, the church, with His precious blood. (191)
After this there is a pause, a thoughtful silence, after which Drew responded, “I want to serve in Christ’s army.” Mr. Pipes responded, “Ah, yes. But it is a most demanding army filled with grand champions from ages past… But, my dear lad, it is the most noble service under the greatest of Captains” (191). This is exactly what I want my children to hear, and they really helped to get the wheels turning in my boys’ minds, leading to some good conversations about the need for a new heart.

There is more that needs to be said about this book, but it will have to wait for another post. We strongly recommend this book. It will aid you in encouraging the use of good hymns, raise the gospel for your children and might even make them want to try hot tea- my boys just today decided Earl Grey tea didn’t taste as good as it sounded in the book. :)

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At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These books weren't read alouds in our family, thus it is only my teens who have read them and loved them. They usually read one a year to complement the period of history that they are studying.
I wanted to commend/encourage you. I so thoroughly enjoy your site! Truthfully, we usually have read the books you have read, but I really enjoy and learn from your commentary. Occasionally, you introduce us to a new work and that is always a priceless gift. The King's Shadow was one such introduction. I will pass on that her second book, Crossing The Panther's Path, failed to live up to my high hopes; I think that the Biblical worldview presented in the first story was probably not intentional as the views presented in her second book, which is set during the War of 1812 and features Tecumseh as a main character,are blurry. In addition, the book was not memorable. I don't always agree with you; we thoroughly enjoyed Theras and His Town,because we were able to really see the difference between Sparta and Athens. In fact, I think for using emotion to demonstrate just how completely different these two city-states were Theras and His Town did an excellent job. We used the false worldview presented to contrast with Biblical truth- but my children are older and we have discussed these things before.
I am very much looking forward to reading The Crown and Covenant series because you have been so excited about them!
Why all these comments? I noticed that people rarely leave comments on your site and I so appreciate what you do that I did not want you to grow weary or discouraged. And while I am convinced that you blog for God's glory and not for the response of man, I know that hearing "Well done" can be such a blessing and I would like you and yours to be blessed as you have blessed us with your insightfulness. I tried blogging for a week and quit. Granted, even though my husband was very favorable towards it, I truly cannot reconcile the time spent blogging with my job as wife and mother.
I wish I could leave you with a wonderful book recommendation but currently I don't know if what we are reading during the Children's Hour would appeal to you. For my youngest, I am reading Hans Christian Andersen. After he goes to bed I read a mystery to my teens: Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas. He is a new author and I am fascinated by his work. His novel is set in late 19th century London, which fortunately corresponds to the fact that we have just reached this time period in our study of world history! His detectives are humourous, the vocabulary is rich, the detail to the history of the time and the society is thorough; what has me impressed is how Thomas weaves in accurate and at times blatant theological statements such as "...salvation which is a free gift, given through the death and resurrection of the true Messiah...", "...God never changes...", "People don't read their Bibles. They hire preachers to preach for them. And some pastors will preach total nonsense if it will tickle the congregations' ears enough to open their purses."
This book involves a murder of a Jew thus involving lots of dialogue about Judaism. From some comments made, I think Will Thomas believes or at least presents that God has not yet fulfilled His covenant with the Jews but that He will because it is an eternal covenant. I think that is a more "dispensational" point of view and someone who was very "covenantal" in their theology might have a problem with that. In addition, the author does let the main character use alcohol one time in order to "drown his sorrow". I do think this scenario appeared out of character. In no way was it graphic or disgusting. AND, I am not recommending this book for you to read to your sons, but maybe as something you and your wife might enjoy. All in all, this book is not what I would expect from Simon and Schuster; it reminds me more of what is being published by Westbow.
Please take this rather long comment as hopefully a gift of encouragement. Thank you for your faithfulness!
Molly Moody

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks for the encouraging words and recommendations! I really appreciate both. what you describe is exactly how I hope people will be able to use the site- ideas and recommendations with which they can agree or disagree, particularly applying to their own situation, ages of children etc.



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