Children of Peace

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

For Susan Lawrence, 1946–2013, who made a joyful sound

A breakaway Quaker sect, the Children of Peace, built the unique and beautiful temple in Sharon, Ontario, then called Hope, in the late 1820s. I set the song in 1914, when the temple was derelict (it has since been restored), and invented an elderly female narrator, the last living member of the community. I then found out there had in fact been such a woman, and I gave my narrator her name. The haunting instrumental at the end is “Egypt,” one of the hymn tunes on the temple’s 1820 barrel organ, and the musical inspiration for the verses of this song.

 

My name is Emily McArthur, I am old but I remember
when our meeting flourished, one in spirit and in mind
and we named our village Hope, and thus we lived in Hope and prospered
but now I am alone, I am the last one of my kind

Now the temple stands deserted, peeling paint and broken windows
and the wind blows through the thistles growing wild beside the door
and cattle graze around it, their great brown eyes unheeding
that the Children of Peace are no more

Oh we made a joyful sound, and we dressed in colours gay
we were neighbour helping neighbour in the truest Christian way
sons and daughters standing equal in Jehovah’s holy sight
we were the Children of Peace, we were the children of light

David Willson was our prophet, God spoke through his hymns and teachings
and saved him and his family from a shipwreck in the storm
when he came to Upper Canada to build a new Jerusalem
and his dreams and visions showed him how the temple must take form

Twelve great columns rising upward and the Ark within its centre
forty windows streaming sunlight like a blessing when we prayed
and a wondrous curving staircase soaring up like Jacob’s ladder
to the gallery while the choir sang and the silver band played

Chorus

And we refused to take up arms, though we strove for what was right
and when Mackenzie* called for justice, some among us chose his way
but the peaceful march he promised turned to blood and death and grieving
so we struggled from then on to rise above the worldly fray

And now young men are dying on the fields of France and Belgium
but I pray a time will come when we shall put an end to war
and men and women side by side will seek the ways of peace and justice
and the Temple will shine brightly like a flame of hope once more

Chorus

My name is Emily McArthur, all my children died before me
and the Children of Peace have now all scattered or passed on
but when the wind blows through the temple, I still hear a distant echo
of the silver flutes and voices from those days forever gone

Oh may I join them once again when my soul finds its release
we were the children of light, we were the Children of Peace

 

*William Lyon Mackenzie, a leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion

 

Honorary Producer: Susan Lawrence