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FBC Gadsden music ministers stick together, work as team in the churchcomment (0)

August 2, 2007

By Leigh Pritchett

Harmonizing means more than a singing style at First Baptist Church, Gadsden, in Etowah Baptist Association as two of its former ministers of music help the current one in his ministry.

J.T. Harrell, who has been minister of music at First, Gadsden, for 10 years, said he has worked with George McSpadden and Jim Stanton since arriving at the church.

McSpadden was organist from 1966 until 1970, when he became minister of music. He held that role until 1980, at which time he returned to the organ seat and Stanton was called as minister of music.

Stanton served in that capacity until becoming the church’s minister of senior adults and administration in 1990. He retired from the church staff at the end of 2000 and currently directs the handbell choirs despite being in a wheelchair since suffering a spinal stroke in 2003.

Harrell, 41, said both McSpadden, 75, and Stanton, 69, are willing to fill in when he is out. And McSpadden, who continues to serve as organist, backs up Stanton with the handbell choirs.

“Between the three of us, we make a pretty good team,” Stanton said.

For a while, there were four music ministry leaders working together as Sarah Culberson, 83, led the children’s choirs at First, Gadsden, from 1969 until 1996. She previously served as the church’s music director from 1954 until 1957.

Until about four years ago, Culberson performed with the church’s senior adult choir, and now she can be found at handbell practices — ready to “pinch hit” if needed.

Harrell counts it a benefit to have some of the church’s former ministers of music working with him. He said each brings individual strengths to the ministry and provides a different perspective.

As a result of McSpadden’s and Stanton’s contributions, the music ministry is broader and incorporates more people, Harrell said. Right now, it includes about 190 people (4 years old through senior adults) in choirs, ensembles and instrumental groups.

Because Stanton and McSpadden are “seasoned” ministers of music and “well-educated musicians,” Harrell said he has learned things from them “far greater than any classroom situation could create.”

For 30 years, McSpadden was an instructor at Gadsden State Community College, teaching such courses as music theory, keyboard, choir and voice. Prior to coming to First, Gadsden, Stanton worked with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources).

Pastor Bryan Blass said the three work well together. There are no “turf battles,” he noted. Instead he sees a “great exchange of ideas.”

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