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Decatur’s Central Baptist choir ‘blesses’ recovering churchescomment (0)

August 25, 2011

By Martine Bates Sharp

The lights went out, causing a scramble for candles and flashlights as the musicians prepared to play and sing. Power was finally restored but the thunder was loud and the lightning was constant. For those who experienced this year’s tornadoes in Alabama, the night brought back memories of April 27.

The night had been planned not to bring back memories but to provide some relief and comfort. That Sunday night, the choir and band from Central Baptist Church, Decatur, traveled to Calvary Baptist Church, Russellville, to do a benefit concert for two Phil Campbell churches.

Chason Farris, minister of worship and music at Central Baptist, is from the area and began looking for a way to help soon after the tornadoes hit.

“I saw all of the response right after the tornadoes,” Farris said. “I knew that after a few weeks or months, the cameras would be gone, the money would run out and the attention would be somewhere else but the people would still have needs.”

He started talking to Wade Wallace, pastor of Calvary Baptist — his home church — about doing something for local churches affected by the tornadoes. Wallace was enthusiastic and suggested that they target Mountain View Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, both in Phil Campbell.

In late summer, Central’s music ministry hosts An Evening of Praise, a Sunday night service in which the choir, band and praise team perform some of their favorite songs from the past year. But this year, Farris decided to “take it on the road” to reach others.

“I wanted to make the choir a missions group — to go bless someone else,” he said.

In all, 46 choir members and eight musicians made the trip from Decatur to Russellville Aug. 7. They were joined on the last two songs by Calvary choir members.

The church was filled nearly to capacity with members of the four churches involved. Audience members were demonstrative in their appreciation of the music; they participated enthusiastically in the congregational singing, clapping and raising their hands and even spontaneously rising to their feet at one point.  

Farris was pleased with the outcome of the concert, which brought in a love offering of just more than $5,700.

“There was a sweet spirit there,” he said. “People had to relive that day. Some were crying, having a hard time, but they were there. The main reaction was gratitude. In spite of what they had gone through, they were thankful.”

The members of Central’s music ministry were thankful, too.

Farris said, “Our choir felt like God was using them; they felt blessed. We all learned a lesson about how we can use our gifts to be an influence.”

Tim Haney, pastor of First, Phil Campbell, said his church has received an outpouring of support since the devastating storm.

“By the second day (after the tornado), supplies began flowing in. We sit in our Sunday School classes and talk about missions and give to missions. When your whole town is destroyed — it was an opportunity for the church to shine,” Haney said.

Sammy Taylor, pastor of Mountain View Baptist, pointed out that it was also an opportunity to educate people about what the church really is. He recalled someone telling him after the storm had passed that his church was gone.

“That’s just the building,” Taylor replied. “The church is still here.”

But not everyone.

“We had four fatalities in our church,” he said.

Still the church presses onward.

“We went from a 450-seat sanctuary to a parking lot. It’s not what you hold in your hand but Who you hold in your heart. We’re trying to follow the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire,” Taylor said.

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