Nearer my God to Thee

I AM is the name of the pop oratorio that will be staged in English for the first time at the International Youth Convention 2019. Originally a German composition, the lyrics were translated into English by Jeremy Dawson. Life has taught him: “God gives first and asks later.”

“I’m so happy to be part of something as big as the pop oratorio. The excitement of the young people is so inspiring,” the Priest from London (England) says. He did the translation within six weeks. “How that was possible in such a short time I can only explain with one word: Jesus. He was there.”

Jeremy was born into a New Apostolic family. When his mother took over the management of a retirement home in Ipswich in the east of England, the family of four moved into a flat in the complex. “My father was a Priest and conducted services in our living room. For me it was church. We were a congregation of four members.”

When a New Apostolic family from the USA moved to Ipswich, the services started to take place in a larger room of the retirement home. The residents of the home became curious and some wanted to be baptised and sealed. “This special congregation contributed to my faith being strengthened.”

Trusting in God’s help

“There was an old piano in the home which nobody wanted any more. I needed two fingers to press the keys,” Jeremy says and smiles as he remembers. He was only six years old. “One day my father saw me at the piano and showed me which keys produce which sounds.”

Colin Dawson was a professional musician: he played the saxophone in the Band of the Grenadier Guards. In order to have more time with his family, he gave up his job and worked as a taxi driver. “I didn’t know until much later that he had sold his saxophone so that we would have heating in the winter.”

“When I was 14 years old, our District Evangelist asked me whether I could compose a song for the retirement of our District Elder,” he says about his beginnings as a composer. “‘Me?’ I asked in astonishment. But I was convinced that God would help so I sat down at the piano that same day and wrote music to the District Elder’s favourite psalm.”

Two years later, Jeremy was again asked to compose something. This time it was to be two pieces for a divine service which the Chief Apostle was to conduct at the end of the year. “When Chief Apostle Richard Fehr heard that a young brother had composed the songs he did not know, he wanted to get to know me and called me to the altar,” Jeremy says.

Put to the test

At the age of 18 Jeremy began to study music in London. “It felt good to be among so many young people. Student life in the capital was fun. There was lots going on,” Jeremy remembers.

At the time, he was a member in the main congregation in London and served as a Deacon there. “There was a period when I wondered whether I should take a leave of absence in order to concentrate more on my studies. I prayed a lot and read the Bible and arrived at the conclusion that the ministry of Deacon brings joy and strong faith, so I wanted to hold on to it.”

This did not change even when he was asked to help out in the very small congregation of Ilford: meaning an almost two-hour drive there and back twice a week. But Deacon Dawson did this gladly. He was firmly convinced: “God called me.” He found a second home in the new congregation.

Inspired by faith and fellowship

Jeremy met his wife, Ruth—a German national by birth—about twenty years ago in London Central. When their children were born, she spoke German with them. And Jeremy used the opportunity to learn German together with his children. The course was set for the pop oratorio down the road.

Priest Dawson performs many tasks in the Church. As a religious instruction teacher and as the person responsible for the children in the district, he loves to make music with them. He plays the organ and piano, is a member on the music committee, and composes songs. “My faith, the services, and the fellowship with brothers and sisters are my source of inspiration. Important for me is to bring people closer to God through music.”

When looking back on some of the things he has experienced, Jeremy is firmly convinced: “When God needs somebody for a particular task, He always gives the means, tools, and the time so that one can master the given task. God gives first and asks later. He only demands from us what we can manage and what is good for us.”

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