Today was our last Gospel Vespers service this season, and what a blessing it was!
Our Gospel theme today was The Feeding of The 5000. Mary gave the message in the form of a dramatization. She played the mother of the little boy who gave his loaves and fishes to Jesus. She ended her story at the altar, letting us know that there is always enough at God's communion table.
Our music leaders today were the Voices of Joy gospel choir, directed by Peggy Downes. A few years ago, there was a big fundraising service at St. Paul's on Bloor St. A church in Lunenburg, NS, had burned to the ground, and all the funds raised went to rebuild and restore this historic church. Being an east-coast girl myself, I was eager to offer my talents to the cause. I sang a new hymn, written for the occasion, by Herbert O'Driscoll. Andrew Ager played piano, and Gerald accompanied me on djembe. Great fun! The whole service was filled with the awesome music of bagpipes, handbells, and choirs. Folk legend, John Allan Cameron, even lead the congregation in Lord of the Dance. (Wee bit of trivia: Gerald's dad used to play in a band with John Allan Cameron!). But at that service, the mood was set by the Voices of Joy choir. They opened everything with soulful gospel singing. I remember they sang "Holy Ground", and you could feel God's presence in the house.
So that's how they came to sing at Gospel Vespers today. When brainstorming about good music leaders, Dad and I immediately remembered the Voices of Joy, and gave Peggy a call. And we're so glad they came! They were a great fit for our service. Their music was rhythmic and singable. It was full of praise and joy, but when needed, it was also a tool for peace and reflection. The choir itself was small, but the voices were strong and passionate. I love this kind of choral sound. The harmonies were strong and present; not necessary refined and perfect, but full of power and life. I was inspired to sing and clap and move, and I was not the only one. Today was a smaller crowd, but they were definitely excited by the music and the energy!
Gospel Vespers has a been a real blessing for me, and, I believe, for our church. It has brought in people who have never been to St. John's. It has introduced new music and new musical sounds to our congregation. It has inspired some very creative and dramatic preaching on some very traditional gospel stories. And it has given us a place where we, as Anglicans, can be passionate about praising Jesus. We don't need to be locked into tradition and weekly formats. Dad has a favourite term: "Carving out new ministries." Gospel Vespers is such a perfect example of this. We are finding new ways to express our love, our joy, and our excitement about the Gospels and their stories of Jesus. What an honour for me to be a part of this!
Our next season of Gospel Vespers will start next September. I don't know where I'll be by then, but I'll be praying that lots of people find the joy that I have found in this great service.