Angel of Mercy

Years ago, I met a wonderful woman of humble means at a homeless shelter in downtown Columbus. She had one of those beautiful sing song voices which God seems only to give to black women, to whom He also gives permission to call everyone “baby.” The home she founded is called “the House of Mercy.” Ocie Harris, though I did not see her nearly as much as I would have liked, became a special friend of mine and would often let me speak or sing at the daily worship services for residents at the HOM.

In 1996, when I was writing the songs of “Rivertown,” about the South and Columbus, Georgia in particular, Mother Harris, as she was affectionately known to so many, seemed the perfect unsung hero to celebrate in song. (Though others, including President Bush – with a point of light, had previously recognized her service). Mrs. Harris had passed away not too long before I wrote this song. One of her favorite hymns was “leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” hence its inclusion in this piece.

Never have I been so honored as when the Friendship Baptist Church Voices in Praise choir, of Columbus, agreed to perform the song with me. It still holds true that singing with them is the highlight of my musical life. Jackie Esters directed the choir and Mrs. Freddie Bell played piano. Tyrone Jackson was the organist. This photo is from a public performance of Rivertown at the Springer Opera House, Georgia’s state theater in summer 1997.

 Lyrics

She started at a a storefront on Broadway,
“House of Mercy” painted on the door,
she said that God had given her a vision,
to open up a place to help the poor.

She started out with very little money,
she started out with quite a believing heart,
knowing that the Lord would make her able,
if she would only believe and do her part.

She was an angel of mercy,
angel sweet and kind,
she was an angel of mercy,
before she went to heaven, you know she left a house behind.

If she could talk to you right now she’d call you “baby,”
she’d say “baby, baby, baby ain’t God good,”
she would tell you to be kind to everybody,
the way you know the dear Lord Jesus would.

She was an angel of mercy,
angel sweet and kind,
she was an angel of mercy,
before she went to heaven, you know she left a house behind.

and when times were tough with a load of care,
she would get on her knees and she would go to prayer,
help me, Lord won’t you make me strong,
give me grace to carry on

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the Everlasting arms,
what a blessedness, what a joy is mine,
leaning on the Everlasting arms,
she was leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarm,
she was leaning, on the Everlasting Arms.

She started at a storefront down on Broadway,
she ended up at Sixteenth street and Third,
and now she’s at her mansion up in Glory,
where talk of trials and troubles are never heard.

She was an angel of mercy,
angel sweet and kind,
she was an angel of mercy,
before she went to heaven, you know she left a house behind.