Mack Williams: Gospel Trio Homecoming
I recently attended the Homecoming service of a little Methodist church just outside Yanceyville on U.S. Highway 158 West. I was once a member there and sang in the choir.
Living practically across from the city church where I now belong, the little church’s Homecoming invitational postcard harkened back to a more “rural” time in my life. The church’s image was “picture-post- card-perfect;” and the expansive lawn, large oaks, and sky said: “country.” There’s also sky above the city church ( just as there’s sky above everything), but only minimal yard, and shrubs, instead of oaks.
One summer, a bear cub spent some days in one of those oaks before being taken away by Wildlife officers. As much as we like to attach human feelings to animals (anthropomorphism), I can safely say the little bear’s reason for being in that “churchly” tree had nothing to do with Zaccheus.
In the post card picture, tombstones of the little church’s cemetery can be seen out back. Parishioners who once sang and worshipped there “retired” to a space not far from the site of their worship. The graves of city churchgoers are generally further away in some municipal graveyard, its name usually containing the word “Lawn.”
“Pastoral” scenes of grass, trees, and graves can, of course be seen at many rural churches,including my home church, Saint Paul’s Lutheran (“pastoral” making me think: “Pastor”).
The Homecoming music was provided by the guest minister’s family. The minister, his wife, and their daughter sang, the wife also accompanying on piano.
This was “dejavu” for me; for shortly after moving to Yanceyville in 1974, I sang tenor in a “gospel trio”(rather than “gospel quartet,” since you have to make-do with what you’ve numerically got, in both music and name). Wayne (this same minister) and his wife Yvonne (vocal and piano, then and now) comprised 2 parts of that old gospel group, with me comprising the third.
The current group’s third member was their daughter, also singing. I had once been that third member, and gave it up it up due to scheduling problems. You can believe me when I tell you that my departure from the group played absolutely no part in Wayne and Yvonne’s deciding to have a child, who would later on sing with them.
The trio sang several songs that Homecoming day; with Wayne sometimes interspersing the music with spoken words. I couldn’t help thinking of Elvis’ spoken lines in “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”(“You know, somebody once said the world’s a stage…….”). Since Elvis was early-on influenced by gospel music, perhaps that’s why he did that, who knows?
I was glad to hear one song “we” used to sing forty-some years ago: “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Cavalry,” mentally humming along my tenor part (it just now occurs to me that “mental humming” seems to be even more secretive than “mental singing!”
They didn’t perform “Turn Your Radio On” that day, but when I sang with them forty-some years ago, I sometimes did a “mean”( not really “mean,” since it is gospel) version of it. This might surprise those of you who know me and think I’m mostly a “Johnny Bach-note,” or “Johnny Schubert-note” singer.
Wayne’s Homecoming sermon concerned life’s appointments, those dealing with work, doctors, and most importantly, the one with “Jesus;” but the thing which stuck in my mind was the reassuring, un-hastened bass of Wayne’s voice. Unlike Darth Vader’s menacing (before he “saw the light”) low tones, Wayne’s soothing, subterranean, mellow “depths” seemed like a flying buttress deeply anchored in support of faith’s “heights.”
At their fellowship hall dinner table , I initiated a brief “singing” with Wayne, Yvonne, and their daughter of “He Did It All for Me” and “Amazing Grace”( we were momentarily a quartet).
Also at the dinner, a white-haired lady in wheelchair (but with greatly able smile) said she was very glad to see me, hoping I would come back and sing sometime, and I said I would. It troubled me that I had forgotten her name, saying then only the generic: “It’s great to see you too!” I later asked her name of someone, and hope to address properly, thus making amends for letting her name previously slip my mind.
On the way home, I thought about what had just occurred: an encounter with an earlier part of my life, such physical encounter having happened in a spiritual place.
Patty M. Messick Program Coordinator, Trinity Living Center Caring for our seniors is perhaps one of the greatest responsibilities any... read more