I had set tonight aside to write my SGM Radio.com tribute article on Dottie Rambo, but I'm so flooded with images from today's funeral that I'm having trouble getting my head around the article. Most of today was great, but some of it was disturbing as well.
First, The Basics: We arrived at Christ Church in Nashville at 12:30 for a 1:00 service. This was my first visit, and this place is huge!! We parked way up on the hill, and the shuttle bus came to pick us up. He said people had been arriving since 11:00 that morning. Inside, the results were obvious. The ginormous sanctuary was packed to the gills. They have a huge choir loft, and just before the service, each and every seat was filled by a singer - truly a 'who's who' of Gospel music.
And that's what brings us to ...
The Ugly Stuff: We knew going in to the service that the music would be spectacular, and we also knew that despite the gravity of the day, there would be people in the audience just there to see the 'big show'. For example, Andre Crouch was one of the people in the congregation. Now, if I ever meet Andre Crouch, I'll probably geek out and I will totally want a picture. But I wouldn't ask for a photo at a funeral! Well, apparently, not everyone has that standard. That's right, just before the service, a fan approached Mr. Crouch, sat in the seat next to him, and asked someone to take a photo of them together. At a funeral!
And my other favourite was the woman in front of us. She was clearly a fan, and I think it's great that fans would want to show up at the funeral to show their respect. However, is it really respect when you also sneak your camcorder into the service? First she pulls out these huge black binoculars so she can check out the people in the choir. (There were large screens around the church, so everyone could see everything.). Then she pulls out a camcorder and starts recording her favourite parts of the service. Unbelievable! We joked about it after, wondering where the video will show up first: YouTube or Ebay?
But all that aside, there was definitely...
The Good Stuff: I have never experienced a more joyful funeral than I did today. I've attended more funerals than most people - many as a singer, and far too many as a friend. Most of the funerals I've attended have focused on comforting the grieving and celebrating a life lived. (I'm struggling with the right way to say this, because I don't think one way is better than the other) Today's service focused on a celebration, not just of Dottie's life lived, but of the new life she is living today. It was a joyful expression of salvation, God's grace, and life everlasting given to us by Jesus. There was applause, singing, and shouts of praise.
Some of my favourite moments:
- We opened with prayer for those hurt in the accident that were unable to attend the funeral - a wonderful and generous way to start things off.
- Barbara Mandrell spoke about Dottie's gracious and generous approach to people; how she shunned praise, and always turned the attention towards other people.
- The "Choir of the Artists" was directed by Bill Gaither, and it really was great. They had a band to supplement the tracks, and performed 2 full sets of songs. Soloists would take verses with the choir on the choruses, and on most songs, there were several reprises of the chorus. (Did I mention the service was almost 3 hours long?) In all, 17 of Miss Dottie's songs were performed. What a legacy!
- Ben sang the solo on "Sheltered in the Arms of God". We all know what that song means to me, and this was the most emotional part of the service for me.
- The Voices of Lee sang "He Looked Beyond my Fault" - amazing!!!!
- "I Go to the Rock" had at least 4 full reprises on a double chorus, and another reprise at the end of the service. Truly, I have never attended a funeral where people where standing, clapping, swaying, and cheering. In some moments I didn't quite know what to think of it all, but I also found it to be incredibly wonderful too.
- The Isaacs sang "Mamma's Teaching Angels How to Sing" - stunning!!!
- A bishop read messages from Lily Tomlin, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and said there have been letters from all levels of government. The president sent a flag which was flown over the White House on Mother's Day.
- Lulu Roman sang "I Will Glory in the Cross". Lulu, Dottie, and Naomi Sego had been touring together as The Golden Girls of Gospel. Lulu sounded wonderful - her voice was strong, and her performance was a genuine gift to her friend.
- The Crabb Family sang "I've Never Been This Homesick Before". Again, more standing, clapping, swaying...
- Gloria Gaither gave a short speech where she tied together many of Dottie's own lyrics to celebrate her arrival in Heaven. Wonderful! (of course!)
- Sandi Patty gave us the finale with "We Shall Behold Him". It was gorgeous and powerful, and a fitting way to end the service.
As the family, choir, and pastors filed out, the pianist started to improvise, and ended up playing "I Go to the Rock". The choir and congregation, as if on cue, started to sing along again. It really was pretty amazing for me. Not just for the incredible display of talent, not just for the important guests and the impressive accolades - It amazed me that even in grief, the focus of this service was "joy". Joy for a life lived, joy for a legacy of music, and joy that, one day, we will all sing these same songs, gazing on the face of our Lord.