- St. Francis
- Martin Luther
- Rob Bell
- Father Richard Rohr
- Ralph Carmichael
You may recognize the first four names as revolutionaries in the movement of Christian thinking. But you may be asking, “Who is Ralph Carmichael and why is he on the list?”
Ralph Carmichael, who died October 18, 2021, at age 94, was the key figure who dragged the church kicking and screaming into the world of contemporary music. You know how touchy that topic was and still is! Some churches are still fighting over music.
Ralph Carmichael was considered, by his Christian college and many churches, to be a “heretic” for blending the “sacred with the secular.” He faced resistance and rejection from the Christian world at almost every turn.
In 1969, Ralph Carmichael and Kurt Kaiser collaborated on the youth musical, “Tell It Like It Is.”
My dad, the hymn-loving pastor of Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin Missouri, allowed the youth choir to perform the musical during a Sunday night service.
Dad certainly had a progressive side.
I was in 8th grade, too young to be in the youth choir, but I sat in the congregation listening, mesmerized, “Wow, this is SO COOL!”
Ralph Carmichael was instrumental in re-forming, re-shaping my faith. In ninth grade, I joined the youth choir. One song at the forefront of my memory from those days is a Ralph Carmichael song: “A Quiet Place.”
It meant a lot to me then. It means even more to me today.
Read the lyrics.
Let them soak into your soul.
There is a quiet place
Far from this rapid place
Where God can soothe my troubled mind.
Sheltered by tree and flow’r
There in my quiet hour
With Him by cares are left behind.
Whether a garden small
Or on a mountain tall
New strength and courage there I find.
Then from this quiet place
I go prepared to face
A new day WITH LOVE FOR ALL MANKIND.
I have not always had a love for all mankind. I have not always loved people who worshipped differently, who voted differently, who lived differently than I. Oh, I said I loved them, but I really didn’t. I judged. I condemned. I excluded.
Ralph expressed an experience in song that I sang about as a 14 year old but did not experience until I was a 50 plus year old: Contemplation of God – looking at God’s face – in nature, resulting in a reflection of God’s nature – a love for ALL mankind.
Yes, Ralph Carmichael, your songs were revolutionary.
Some revolutions are slower than others. It took me 40 years to live what I sang. Each day is a “new day” to live in love.