Come, Be Near Us

I had just awakened last Thursday and was reciting my daily scriptures and prayers. They include my morning prayer, Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer, Wesley’s Covenant Prayer, and my personal mission statement. All of a sudden, a song came into my heart from out of nowhere. “Come, Be Near Us” is from a 1977 collection of sacred songs by Bert and Nance Carlson[i]. It had been forty years since I both accompanied and sang this song.

The Rev. J. Bert Carlson pastored a number of congregations for over fifty years in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana and died in 2017. He was also a musician and composer. Pastor Carlson’s wife Nancé wrote the words to Bert’s music and was very involved in music and drama ministries. She died in 2016.

Each of the seven solos in the collection is unique and soulful. I sat down at our piano on Thursday and began to learn Come, Be Near Us once more. You can listen to the song here:

On this Martin Luther King, Jr, Day, as we remember our call to create the beloved community:

Lord, come be near us today,

Lord, keep your hand on our shoulders,

Lord, come, come down, be near.

Lord, come, come down, be near.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Lord, let us come on knees,

Lord, as we come alone,

Lord, let our spirits unite as one,

Lord, grant us thy grace.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

Lord, lead us from this day ever on,

Lord, let us know your will.

Lord, let us share your love,

Lord, let us be your instruments, Lord, be near us.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Lord, come be near us today,

Lord, keep your hand on our shoulders.

Lord come, come down, be near.

Lord, come, come down, be near.

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Lord, let us come on knees, Lord, give us strength.

Lord, let our pride never divide.

Lord, when love is tested and tried,

Lord let us turn to you for aid,

“Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

Lord, let us be your children.

Lord, let us sing you praise,

Lord, let us thank you all our years.

Lord, be near us.

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

Lord, come be near us today,

Lord, keep your hand on our shoulders,

Lord, come, come down, be near.

Lord, come, come down, be near us.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

As we pray for a peaceful transition of power when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Wednesday, may we all pray these words of Martin Luther King Jr., which are found on the South Wall of the MLK Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. (Christmas sermon, Atlanta, Georgia, 1967)

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

May God give us the courage to create a beloved community in every corner of our world. Lord, come be near us today.


[i] Sacred Songs of Bert and Nance Carlson, Sacred Music Press, Dayton, Ohio, 1977.

18 thoughts on “Come, Be Near Us

  1. Thank you, Laurie. You always help us come to the place where peace, and hope, and our calling to serve, reside. You are such a blessing to us, as prophet and sister, leader, Bishop and grandmother, runner, wife, and author. Don’t know how you’re doing it all, but we thank our God for you! Missing you in Michigan.

  2. I miss singing with you Laurie! What a blessed weaving you offered us. May we strive into the vision and may God come near.

  3. Laurie…..I totally enjoyed your singing and such beautiful words. Thank you. The prayer mentioned….Let this be a peaceful transition of power to Joe Biden.
    Blessings, Caring, Prayers,
    Arlene Wanamaker
    fumc B’ham

  4. Thank you, Bishop Laurie.
    We are blessed to have both your episcopal leadershiip and your spiritual example in Iowa.

  5. A beautiful song sung with a beautiful voice, a wonderful way to start a new day. The messages all reflect the truth that love transcends all. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you for sharing. I had never heard this song. A good message for us everyday, uplifting.. Mary – Minerva Wesley United Methodist Church.

  7. Thanks for sharing the song and the quotes, Laurie! I was not familiar with the musical piece but found both music and words beautiful and engaging. MLK’s words are so appropriate at almost any time. This was a rich devotional time. Thanks again!!

  8. This is their granddaughter and it makes me so happy to see their music is still affecting people even now.

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