Friday, October 10, 2008

Faith Works 10-11-08
Jeff Gill

Sing, Shout, Celebrate, Support

Ephesians 5.19 reminds us of the role “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” have in Christian communities, from the earliest days of the church.

Spiritual songs may have been an assortment of things in the earliest days of the Christian church, but the musical label “spirituals” is the unique blend of African traditional forms carried to this continent by the unwilling immigrants aboard slave ships, mixed with the Scots-Irish traditional music of congregational singing in the southern highlands.

While early urban and cultured American worship still hewed close to the classical forms of the Old World, the participatory art form of congregational singing, encouraged by traditions out of Welsh singing and northern European Pietist practices, helped to bring about the art form that we now call “Gospel music.”

Gospel music is a wide river with many tributaries, flowing down out of the highlands and down through verdant swamps, coming together into a Big Muddy of gospel music rolling power, drawing so many sources into a single deep expression.

Gospel can have a country sound among white folk, a distinctly African form with rural black hymn singing, and all these streams converge in the roots of blues and jazz and rock and roll, but the idea and ideal of “Gospel music” endures for all races and ethnicities in this country.

So if you go to a Gospel music concert, you may hear what you expected, or you may hear something more; you are almost certain to hear music that takes you beyond your expectations.

The Licking County Coalition of Care, a co-operative outreach ministry of 43 Christian congregations in this county (43 and counting!), has put together a Gospel Celebration for Sunday, November 2nd, at 4:00 pm in Newark’s Midland Theatre. You can click to for ticket information, if you go to “tickets” and look under “Gospel Celebration” for Nov. 2.

They’ve got Vintage Voices, Christian Apostolic Church’s Sanctuary Choir, a quartet from First United Methodist Church in Newark, the choir from Shiloh Baptist Church, the Granville High School Chamber Singers, and even more groups scheduled to sing between 4 and 6 p.m.

Churches that purchase a block of 20 seats can get that chunk of theatre for $15.50 apiece, but you’ll be buying individual seats the “day of” for $17. So check or call 345-LIVE. You can buy single tickets for that amount on Nov. 2, but why not buy a block of 20 seats now, and gather up the faithful to come and fill them?

It won’t surprise anyone to hear that in the last few weeks, this faith-based group has heard from an average of over 100 families a month, people needing support for their efforts to keep the lights on and stay under a roof. The Coalition of Care has tried in their first couple years of existence to meet and pray with families asking for aid, spending an hour and a half in follow-up conversation with households that average 4.3 persons per home.

“Putting God’s love into action” is the emphasis this community group keeps as their priority; The Coalition of Care works to maintain an ongoing level of conversation and communication with those they assist, using funds offered by local congregations through the co-ordination of the Coalition of Care.

You can learn more about their mission and plans at, or call 670-9700. But right now, they need people and particularly churches to buy up blocks of seats immediately (20 seats @ $15.50 each, vs. $17 per otherwise), and then make sure to fill those 20 or more seats with church members and friends – put people in those seats who need not only a little spiritual boost from listening to the superlative singing of spirituals, but also the chance to get excited about the coalitions and collaborations that mark Licking County charitable outreach.

And your columnist has been invited to participate, not as a singer – it’s safe to come listen, then – but as your Master of Ceremonies. Wa-hooo! I hope to meet many of you on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 2, for a marvelous afternoon of Gospel music in all the forms that wonderful art can take, from 4:00 pm forward. I suspect that the wrap-up will give us all a chance to sing along a bit, and between the economy and the election, we could all use a little singing together.

“Joyful Voices, Helping Hands” – watch for the posters and flyers, and come join us that afternoon. I’ll be the one singing just a little bit off-key, off to one side!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s looking forward to preaching at St. Paul Lutheran tomorrow where we’ll “recall” the old Trinity Episcopal building that’s been in the news lately. Tell him a tale of history at