Monday, September 23, 2013

Remembering a Great Songleader and Preacher on His Birthday

James R. Greer (1904-1995) preached in Helenwood, TN, near Oneida when I was in elementary school and my father preached at Oneida Church of Christ. Brother Greer would have young boys like myself stand beside him sometimes as he (we) led singing so we could get the feel of it. Other than sitting beside my mother at church and listening to her beautiful alto voice, James Greer probably influenced me to love singing in church at an early age more than anyone else. In the mid-80's, I preached the homecoming gospel meeting at Oneida. James Greer came from Nashville, now in his eighties, accompanied by his wife, a long-time college librarian at what is now Lipscomb University, who had not always been able to accompany him to Helenwood years earlier. He directed singing on Sunday night. He needed help getting to the podium, but then remarkably he straightened up and that booming, beautiful voice led the congregation. During the breaks in singing for prayer and, of course, preaching, he feebly made his way to the pew behind the pulpit. But while singing, it was as if thirty or forty years fell away from him. His love for Christ was obvious in his service to the church as a domestic missionary, preaching to small church plants and inspiring their members through word and song. Today would have been his birthday. I remember him, and breathe a prayer of gratitude to God for this man who took the time to teach young boys how to stand before the church and learn to lead and to learn to love singing praises to God.