Heaven in the Middle of Town

The W.C. Bradley company is one of Columbus, Georgia’s finest citizens. For decades it has been a major employer that leads the world in the manufacture of outdoor cooking grills. Their leadership is largely committed to the ethic of Christ in the market place and their philanthropic footprint is visible throughout the community. (Might I recommend an insightful and inspiring book by the officially retired but still very present face of the company, W.B.Turner; it is entitled The Learning of Love: A Journey Toward Servant Leadership, Smyth and Helwys Publishing, Inc. 1999. )

From time to time, i have been given opportunity to participate at Bradley Company functions and, in the course of such work, have written a number of songs for them. The songs are usually written for a particular occasion and often have a life-span of one performance. “Haven in the Middle of the Town” is one of those.

Some years ago, in the mid 1990’s, the employees of the WC Bradley Company, as a gift to the owners of the Company, pooled money together and constructed, at the company headquarters, a small chapel, in acknowledgement of the Christian faith that has done much to shape the corporate culture. I was honored to play at the chapel dedication, which took place on a Sunday afternoon shortly after Christmas. “Haven” was written for that occasion.

Some months later, maybe even years later, while I was winding down law practice, an elderly gentleman, without an appointment, showed up at my office. He introduced himself as Coats Brown and told me that he was an avocational calligrapher. He then presented me with an ornately calligraphied copy of “Haven in the Middle of the Town.” The Bradley Company had hired him to write the words for framing and permanent display in their chapel. (I vaguely recall giving the lyrics to one of Bradley’s personnel after I sang it at the dedication. It’s a wonder to me that anyone could have read my handwriting.)

In recording the song this past week, I could tell that, like so many that I wrote when I was still in law practice, it was one that I probably wrote on the day of the event. Even now, I wish that I could reword many of the lines and tweek some of the phrases. Given, though, that Mr. Brown wrote exactly what I’d written and sung, and given that it is now permanently rendered with all of those imperfections, I recorded it, at Bradley Company request, as it was written so that visitors to the chapel might hear it in its original form.

Special thanks to my friends John Scott Evans, who played one of the guitars, and Justin Belew who played penny whistle and violin.

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