|Short Name:||Charles W. Naylor|
|Full Name:||Naylor, Charles Wesley, 1874-1950|
One of the Movement's most gifted lyricists as well as intellects was Charles Wesley Naylor. C.W. Naylor was born in Athens County, Ohio in January 1874. It would have been inconceivable at this moment of birth for the Naylor family or Charles himself to know that sorrow and suffering would be constant companions throughout his life. Yet this scenario was to become his life allotment beginning early in his childhood.
Naylor's first heartache came at age eight when his mother died. As a result of this overwhelming tragedy, Charles found himself a permanent resident at his grandparent's home.
It was, however, within his grandparent's home that he became trained in religious matters. This religious upbringing proved life changing for Charles. He would by age 18 become connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1892. Yet as God would direct, Naylor became acquainted with the Church of God Movement under the preaching ministry of Barney Warren in 1893. This encounter with Warren and the Movement would bring Naylor into a fellowship that would be his home for the remainder of his life.
By Naylor's own conversion account, Warren stirred him to search scripture for the message of true salvation. Charles quickly became aware through this study that his present religious training was incomplete and he longed to be "born again." After much personal struggle, scriptural searching and eventual conversion, Naylor decided initially to remain with the Methodist Episcopal Church. This decision, however, was short lived when Naylor experienced what he believed was a sanctifying work. With this renewed spiritual awakening, C.W. Naylor left the Methodist congregation and became permanently involved with fellowship in the Movement.
By 1896, Naylor was employed in the publications department of the Gospel Trumpet Company, which was then located at Grand Junction, Michigan. Charles was able to stay only briefly due to a family illness that would require his return to Ohio. Naylor would, however, return to the Reformation's work where he engaged in evangelistic ministry under the direction of his mentor, Barney Warren. Charles Naylor would soon find his training and teaching leading him into a pastoral role, with ordination coming in the Church of God Movement in 1899.
Naylor was a thoughtful and reflective man, although possibly due to his physical weaknesses. Charles says of himself that he always had poor health with "anemia, bad nerves, and a tumorous kidney." A weakened physical condition was to become more severe in 1908. It was during this year that Naylor had an accident during the removal of timbers from a tent at a campmeeting in Sydney, Florida. According to C.E. Brown in his book, When the Trumpet Sounded, the timbers fell on Naylor causing a "dislocated left kidney." Matters became worse in 1909 when a bus Naylor was riding in struck an "obstruction in the road." This accident, which occurred while working for the Gospel Trumpet Company, would confine him to bed for the remainder of his life. Naylor was never seen from this time forward without the cot he used for reclining. This cot, along with a shade for his eyes, became a visible part of his personality.
Charles Naylor, through these hardships, remained a hopeful man who spent time in fervent prayer. Naylor once shared that on two separate occasions he saw angels while lying bedridden in the hospital. John Morrison claimed that he never ceased to be amazed by the happy and hopeful spirit Naylor exhibited, even in his suffering. Morrison attests to this in his book, Learning How to be Happy, were he writes, "It is my feeling that Mr. Naylor is one of the outstanding examples of our century of how a stalwart personality can achieve happiness, success and usefulness in spite of the handicap of a pitifully afflicted and broken body."
This trust in God was a powerful testimony for those that knew Naylor personally and for those that would only hear of his steadfastness. Charles sums up his positive life view in this manner:
Long ago I determined to be happy. I determined to be happy no matter what happened and no matter what condition I might be in nor what circumstances might be. For twenty one years I have kept my bed a constant sufferer, but
I am happy. I am happy everyday. I will not be any other way.
Charles Wesley Naylor is best known to the Church of God through his writing skills and lyric poetry. Both his immediate and extended family members may have influenced Naylor's composition and writing styles; Naylor's father wrote poetry, a cousin, James Ball Naylor was a columnist and novelist, and another relative, C.H. Morris was a well known songwriter, with several of her songs appearing in the early Church of God songbooks.9 His peers in the writing community also recognized Naylor, who was educated at Ohio Northern University, by listing him in the 1929 Who's Who Among North American Authors.
Naylor was married on two separate occasions, the first being to Emma Hess and the second to Orah Gibbs, a former matron at the Gospel Trumpet home. Both of these women died at early ages, leaving Naylor to live alone with his daughter in the fading years of his life. Charles Wesley Naylor's life ended at the age of 76 on February 21, 1950 after enduring forty-two years of hardship and pain.
Charles Naylor can be viewed as one of the few true intellectuals of the Church of God Movement. He was widely read with a fine personal library. Naylor's broader worldview, especially for a man in the 1920-30s, came from his favorite past time of listening to his Scott –“state of the art" --short wave radio. Charles spent long hours reclining on his cot quietly listening to the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) that brought him the latest news from around the United States and world. This broader world concept would become problematic for Naylor in later life as it prompted him to see the church in an ecumenical light, which he thought put the Church of God out of step with the larger church fellowship. Naylor wrote several articles from this broader worldview that were considered heresy by the Church of God at that historical moment.
C.W. Naylor wrote eight books during his lifetime with the first, Winning A Crown, appearing in 1919. Other books authored by Naylor included When Adversity Comes, Heart Talks, The Secret of Being Strong and Christian Unity. Dr. Dale Oldham believes that Naylor's best work was yet another book, The Secret of the Singing Heart.
Naylor's writing would span fifty years from his quaint beginnings with the publications department of the Gospel Trumpet Company in 1896. It was with this newspaper that he became a regular columnist, answering questions on marital issues, problems in the home, and how to understand doctrinal issues. His two regular featured columns with the Trumpet were "Heart Talks" and "Questions and Answers." In addition, Naylor wrote for the Church of God youth magazine, Young People's Friend.
Charles Naylor's works were not just confined to manuscripts but also consisted of 150 songs penned during his career. He also had a major influence in the publishing of several songbooks for the Church of God, both as a contributor and consultant.16 Songs to Naylor's credit are "Spirit Holy," "Reformation Glory," "I am the Lord's, " "Churches One Foundation," "Wholehearted Service," "I'm on the Winning Side," and "Are you Adorning the Doctrine."
Solidarity and stability are the hallmark of Naylor's music with their messages deeply and firmly rooted in his convictions about the Reformation movement and the Church. It is Dr. Robert Reardon's opinion that Naylor's music was great because it caught and it understood the imagery of the Church of God Reformation.
It is fitting to close this portrait of Naylor with a summary by his personal friend, C.E. Brown; "He was a brilliant man, wonderfully endowed with a keen, critical intellect and yet possessed of an unusual creative capacity and moreover with poetic and musical genius." The Church of God is forever indebted to Charles Wesley Naylor for his profound insights, tender prayers and some of the Church's most worshipful hymns.