By Carl Stagner
Our story, God’s story. The message of the Church of God movement lives on in large part because of pioneer men and women who not only lived it, but tied it to that which speaks to both soul and mind—music. It has been said that the Church of God is a singing church, and after Christ alone, it has been our songs that have brought our common experiences together in beautiful harmony. When voices ring out that there is joy in the Lord, we know it to be true. When we sing of the kingdom of peace reigning within, that’s our story! When the familiar refrain, “I am a child of God” is heard, Church of God people from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between resonate that glorious truth. It should come as no surprise then, when word got out that Stanton First Church of God in Stanton, Kentucky, would host a heritage hymn sing-along, Church of God people from ten congregations showed up—and a bit of heaven came down.
Three months ahead of the event, the church began promoting their heritage sing-along event. Not new to the Church of God, heritage sing-alongs became popular after the turn of the century during the Church of God Convention. Since then, more and more churches and camp meetings have hosted similar gatherings, each with their own flavor, but all with the palpable presence of God. In the past few years, hymn sings have grown in popularity outside of the Church of God, but generally lean toward southern gospel and bluegrass gospel styles. As the Powell County (Kentucky) Church of God Fellowship Revival approached, it became clear that a unique experience was needed to kick things off. A heritage sing-along would do just that, while at the time serving as a retelling of the unique story of the Church of God.
Pastor Ben Liston and worship pastor Brandon Pelfrey were the brains behind the evening. “You just had to be there,” they exclaim. “There’s really no way to describe what happened that night. The video doesn’t even do justice to the emotions and spirit we had that night. There were people that sang every single word by heart. Some just sat and listened, soaking it all in. One couple just sat there praising the Lord and crying through the entire thing.”
For ninety minutes, the roughly 200 people and a thirty-voice choir lifted their voices and worshiped the Lord, testifying to his joy unspeakable and truly wonderful things he’s done. Joining Stanton First Church were Bowen First Church, Morris Creek First Church, Campton First Church, Clay City First Church, West Bend First Church, Vaughns Mill First Church, Camargo First Church, Mt. Sterling First Church, and Winchester First. The event included special soloists, directors, and instrumentalists from different churches, as well as a special tribute to Jim Hill (writer of “What a Day That Will Be”) and Bill and Gloria Gaither. Special video clips were also shown that evening, further enhancing the experience.
“This night was not about promoting the ongoing ‘worship wars’ that has crept into churches,” Brandon explains. “I believe with any business or organization, including the church, it’s important to know your history and the vision cast by the founders. It’s hard to appreciate where you are if you don’t know where you came from. This night was about coming together and singing the songs written by our pioneers that tell our story.”
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