The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

A beloved hymn that has found a place in practically every major hymnal is one written by Charlotte Elliott in 1834 and published in 1836. The opening stanza begins: "Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd'st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come."

Many of us are drawn to this hymn as we remember the life and ministry of Billy Graham. This hymn was sung when those at his crusades moved forward to give their lives to Christ. People came just as they were: poor and infirmed, black and white, sinner and seeker, young and old, etc. I remember being at one of these crusades many years ago at Madison Square Garden in New York where thousands were in attendance. It was incredible to hear the power of Graham's message and invitation to be received by Christ no matter what one's condition might be. This hymn was appropriate because if came out of the life of Charlotte Elliott who at one point in her life had been an embittered woman. She had lain awake at night "tossed about with many a doubt" because of her disability and hardness of heart. But encouraged by a Swiss minister, Dr. Cesar Milan, and her brother, the Rev. Henry Elliott, she softened and was determined to conquer her feelings. She is described as taking her pen and writing this confession of an invalid's faith. It reflects the message found in John 6:37: "Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away."

As we remember Billy Graham many tributes are being offered to honor this great Christian evangelist. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, writing about Graham, said: "He was truly a man of God, a follower of Jesus, and a witness that there really is a more excellent way for the human family." And then the Bishop quotes a stanza of this hymn praying that a chorus of angels will welcome Billy to paradise:

"Just as I am, Thy love unknown

Has broken every barrier down;

Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come."