Hale County Christian Harmony Convention

China Grove Methodist Church
East of Moundville, Hale County, Alabama

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dear Art,

It was a pleasure to see you in Decatur on my way back from the United Sacred Harp Convention. There's not much that will steal me away from such a majestic singing as I had the pleasure to join in Nashville, except for a handful of Christian Harmony singers I happen to know. Here are the minutes from our Sunday at China Grove, with annotations in italicized square brackets, [like this]:

All selections from The Christian Harmony ('Alabama book', Deason-Parris revision, 2002 printing).

[I drove Mako, Ola, and Cugar, thinking we'd get there early, but again failing to take into account those lonely county roads and getting there about one minute to ten. You'll remember the approach as you go up a rough incline with the old church appearing out of the wilderness in glimmering white. Ruth Wyers arrived just as we did and Jeff James and Billy Thompson were already inside. That made seven of us to start.]

The class began with the singing of 7, 46t, 70.

[No. 7 is Jehovah Is My God, by S. Whitt Denson. It was one of those happy moments to discover yet another song new to me. It must've been on Ruth's mind as she's the one who suggested it. Do-- mi-re-mi-fa- so-- la-- mi-so-mi-re- do-- so-- do-la-so-la- so-- do-- re--]

Tim Cook offered the opening prayer. Throughout most of the morning, singers remained seated in their respective sections during the singing of their requests, owing to the small class size. Singers made song requests as follows: Ruth Wyers 105b; Jeff James 105t; Tim Cook 73b, 76b; Jeff James 321; Ruth Wyers 322; by request of a church member 117; Ola Meadows 208t, 208b;

[Remember when you were talking to Ola on my cell phone and she asked you what you wanted us to sing for you and you said to sing them all? Ola mentioned that several times, especially when we were about to take a break, that we hadn't sung them all for Art yet.]

Luisa Reyes 287;

[Luisa is Cugar's granddaughter, who came with her mother, Kay. By now there were several other people in the congregation, several of whom, even though reticent to sit in our square, I could hear singing. We made sure they were all supplied with books. In particular, I could hear Carolyn Wilson, one of the main organizers of the China Grove event.]

Billy Thompson 289.


[By now your friend Peggy Murphy (whose married name I missed) had arrived and I read to her and everyone else your letter, which was a pleasure to all.]

Singing resumed with the following requests: Luisa Reyes 323, 165; Ruth Wyers 164b, 264, 95; Ola Meadows 174b;

[Ola thought we wouldn't forgive her for dragging out a little-used song, 174b Burning Lamp, but I always love when that happens. Although she has her old standbys, she likes singings the songs that no one else remembers singing. She said Burning Lamp was a sermon, the kind preachers don't preach anymore. Sure enough, one could scarcely imagine a modern sermon with such stark reality as "The living know that they must die, Yet all the dead forgotten lie." Isn't it curious how we sing such things and feel relieved?]

Jeff James 175; Tim Cook 174t.

A church member offered the blessing over the bountiful meal that the China Grove congregation prepared.

[Sorry, I didn't catch his name. What this congregation lacks in singers they make up for with cooks. Ola and Ruth say that ever since they were children, people would comment on how good and abundant the food was at China Grove. No change there this year.]


President Billy Thompson opened the afternoon session leading 85b.

[After lunch Harvey and Dawson arrived, having gone to their own church in the morning. We were up to eleven singers by now in the square, with others singing in the back. With the acoustics of that bare wooden interior, we created a surprisingly robust sound, even with all the windows open. (I don't know why I would be surprised. It happens every year.) Although large numbers are always appreciated, I feel a divine presence when a modest band in a forgotten place can raise such earnest tones. I imagined myself hiking through the woods and stumbling across this singing, how stunned with blessing I would be.]

The afternoon session continued with leaders standing to direct as follows: Mako Cook 70b; Louise Crunk 248; Dawson Dockery 171, 350; Ola Meadows 92, 135; Harvey Dockery 180; Jeff James 91, 128b; Tim Cook 206, 36t; Billy Thompson 78b; Jeff James 179, 117, for Carolyn Wilson; Ruth Wyers 325b, 120; Jeff James 178; Ola Meadows 59t; Jeff James 109; Ruth Wyers 111t.

Announcements were made. Billy Thompson led 23 as the closing song. Harvey Dockery closed the singing with prayer.

[Those of us who attend your family reunion singing look forward to your being there in Eoline on September 29. Please express our appreciation to Warren Saddler for bringing you. I hope you can talk some more of your family that way into coming down. Let's make our pitch then for having a singing at your place. It would do everyone well, all those dear old folks and us singers too. ~Tim]

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September 2005

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