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Blount Association church holds monthly talent nightcomment (0)

September 21, 2006

By Grace Thornton

Come on in, grab a bowl of Mrs. Turley’s banana pudding and relax with good friends.

Go ahead and eat and then head on up to the mic if you want — the agenda is flexible. The tune of “I’ll Fly Away” pouring from Tracy Smith’s harmonica fills the air, along with the scent of grilled hot dogs.

It’s Saturday night in Center Point, and laid back is the name of the game.

“We just treat it like it’s somebody’s living room,” said Pastor Mike Young of the once-a-month “jam session” at Twenty-Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, Center Point, just northeast of Birmingham. The church is a member of Blount Baptist Association.

The open talent night — now several months running — meets in the fairly new fellowship hall, the first installment of a $600,000 building and renovation project Twenty-Fifth Avenue Baptist recently completed. The gathering doesn’t have a name, and it doesn’t meet on a specific Saturday night of the month. It’s just an informal gathering of friends and guests getting together to play music and build relationships. It happens when it happens. And it’s been very well-attended.

“We have 65 enrolled in Sunday School, and (recently) we had 55 attend (the Saturday night event),” said Minister of Music Ocie Turley, whose wife, Allene, makes the banana pudding. “But we’ve had 60 or more come to these Saturday night get-togethers.”

Several new members and visitors were in the crowd at the Aug. 26 gathering, something happening more and more as the word gets out in the community.

Shari Bang, for instance, isn’t a member of Twenty-Fifth Avenue Baptist, but her 9-year-old grandson Caleb is. She brought him to the event so he could play his fiddle and ended up enjoying it quite a bit herself.

“Caleb, play ‘Amazing Grace,’” she shouted from her table. He nodded and started in, soon joined by Arvil Crumpton on the mandolin and J.P. Lee on the guitar. Young jumped in, too, picking the fiddle he’s been learning how to play during the last year.

“There are a lot of people who will come to this and play who won’t play in church,” Young said. “I’d get so nervous trying to play in church, but here, if you hit a wrong note, it’s OK.”

He said he’s been surprised at the response and the amount of people who are drawn by a fascination with music. Others are drawn just by the fellowship and comfortable atmosphere.

“I guess you could say we let our hair down,” Turley said.

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