Seeing deeply

February 11, 2015

Candler School of Theology – Episcopal Studies Eucharist Service

Holy Women, Holy Men: Fanny Crosby, Hymnwriter, February 11

Isaiah 42:10-12; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 9:35-39 

Last week when I was on campus, Bishop Whitmore asked if I could come and lead worship here today. He said that y’all are using Holy Women, Holy Men and then simply said “Fanny Crosby, “Blessed Assurance.” I admitted to him that I don’t know much about hymnody, but he smiled and said, “Just look at the gospel, that’s all you need to focus on.” So, it was a go!

As I looked at the texts for the service, I noticed that the reading from John was the end of the healing of the man born blind. Then, the Old Testament also mentioned leading the blind out of darkness. And it hit me, oh yeah, Fanny Crosby was blind!

Yet, unlike the man in the gospel story, Fanny wasn’t born blind. But when she was only six weeks old, she had an infection. It was 1820, so medicine was quite different then. The local doctor couldn’t be found, but a stranger said he could help, it’s unclear whether he was a real doctor or not. He put hot poultices on Fanny’s eyes to kill the infection. It must have been excruciating. The good news is that the infection cleared up, but the scars on her eyes rendered her sightless for the rest of her life.

Fanny’s father died within a year, and her mother became a maid. Fanny’s Grandmother was her primary caretaker. A woman of strong faith, she was determined to raise Fanny just as any child. She believed that all children come into the world ready to learn, and Fanny’s grandmother taught her plenty![i] Read the rest of this entry »

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