We roused ourselves a bit earlier than usual on Sunday morning and headed to the tent meetings in Whitehorse, across from the Salisbury Township Fire hall. We sang six songs on the slanting stage under the big tent. After a sermon by Pablo Yoder from Nicaragua, we lunched along with a thousand or so others and were shortly on our way to our final concert in Philadelphia.
Stan pulled off some amazing feats with the bus in narrow city streets and under bridges! We warmed up (thoroughly) in the lovely large St. John the Baptist Catholic Church before our 4:00 concert. It was fun but challenging to sing with the reverb the building gave us.
Afterwards we partook of ample refreshments in the building next door and chatted with the locals and not-so-locals who had come to hear us. Last concerts have a way of bringing out many friends and family members! We also enjoyed exploring the many nooks and crannies of the church and were thrilled to experience music from the huge organ that took up the balcony.
The last order of business was a photo session, after which we loaded up the bus one last time and headed “home”. After giving the bus a rigorous cleaning we settled into the basement of Curt Weaver’s home (bless their hearts) for the final hours of OC 2011. Food, memories, laughter, songs and joy abounded. The final stragglers wrapped up the evening with a from-memory rendition of Handel’s HallelujahChorus before taking their final leave.
It’s been a great tour. Such a great combination of people is hard to compile; we’re all blessed to be included with such a “gang”. When 2 or 3 are blessed by gathering together in Jesus’name, imagine what it’s like with 33! Thank you for caring enough about us to read this, pray for us and listen to us.
Friday was a day off from programs, which we spent in Washington D. C. We took in bits and pieces of the National Art Gallery and including two guided tours besides what we managed to see in between. We spent time “standing under” the art work in order to be able to understand it. From there we walked through the 105 degree air to The Old Post Office where we ate a meal and went up the glass elevator to see what D.C. looks like from the bell tower. We then rushed across town as fast as a bus in rush hour in D.C. and hustled into the National Cathedral for the Evensong service. After another meal stop we arrived “home” to the Lancaster area quite ready for our beds.
We met at Faith Mennonite School at the blissfully late hour of 11:00 a.m. on Saturday for brunch, a bit of discussion and some rehearsal time. By 2:30 we were on the road to the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA. We practiced our bus roll call in rhythm until we finally got it under 9.75 seconds! Why is this significant? you wonder. Stanley Kauffman, our First Rate Bus Driver, assured us that if we could manage such a feat, he’d buy us all ice cream. Our fried chicken meal at the church was well worth the wait! We had our “prep time” in the beautiful old chapel before moving into the wide open spaces of the current church sanctuary for our almost-last-concert. The crowd was a reverent and receptive one; a real pleasure to sing to.
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” The first McDonalds we pulled into quickly locked their doors when they saw the bus pull in, so we called ahead to the Gap McD’s to give them a fair warning. Shortly thereafter, what to their wondering eyes should appear but a crowd of dressed up Mennonites, all ordering ice cream. Stan, you’re the Best!
Our destination on Thursday was the little town of Laytonsville, Maryland. The church in which we sang is the third building on its site, the first one apparently appearing in 1791, according to a plaque on it’s front. It was formerly a Methodist Church but is currently Goshen Mennonite Church. The balcony was for use by blacks during the Segregation Era. When bathroom facilities were added 10 years ago, the addition was built against the church without being attached, since it’s a historic site and may not be altered.
The outdoor temperature has receded to a point where we were willing to eat our supper (or dinner, if you prefer) outdoors, a definite improvement over last week’s Sauna Weather. This was our smallest crowd of the tour (perhaps because it was the smallest building) and the one with the “warmest” welcome, as it were.
We drove to Williamsburg on Monday and spent the rest of the day and Tuesday exploring it at our leisure. It was quite warm and quite a few of us found ourselves cooling off in the William and Mary Bookstore enjoying some Starbucks and each other’s company. A rain storm came through so our trusty bus driver kindly came and drove us back to the motel. There we happily devoured 12 pizzas and some well read/told stories before retiring.
Various people we met assumed we were in costume just like the rest of the Williamsburg workers and we were able to help a few people with directions, along with the help of their maps, even if we weren’t being paid for it.
Some of our highlights included the Governor’s Palace, the hospital/insane asylum, the Coffee House, the Capitol building, playing Skittles in the toy shop, The College of William and Mary, The Cheese Shop food, the fifes and drums and most of all, the candlelight concert in the Bruton Parish Church at which we sang on Tuesday evening. It was well attended and heartily enjoyed. Our listeners included a wide variety of characters, including some of our friends who didn’t seem bored with hearing us a second or third time.
Most of Wednesday was spent traveling from Williamsburg to Gladys, VA. After our usual warm ups and standing orientation, we supped and became appropriately attired for the evening.
Bethel Mennonite Church was packed to the gills with standing room only for our concert this evening. It was an awesome evening! We made the old rafters ring. The people were so responsive and appreciative. It is always an honor to sing for such people. While the atmosphere was quite different than last evening, it is amazing how people are the same. God comes to us in many ways.
10:00 Saturday found us gathered back with the Oak Grove Church people ready to listen to Wayne Yoder’s second topic: Worshiping God in Truth. Wendell then guided us through some thoughts on allowing the text of songs to speak well, after which we lunched.
The afternoon began with some workshops: New Hymns, Sight Singing, Song Leading, Understanding the Text and a children’s choir. We had a rehearsal with our temporary OC’ers before enjoying yet another scrumptious meal.
The weather continues to be a hot topic of conversation…
At 7:30 we began another “instructional hymn sing” led by Joe Miller from South Boston, VA. John Strickler gave us a sample of an earlier workshop on understanding the text, including a River Brethren song leading demonstration.
We are enjoying the enthusiasm exhibited by people of all ages. One is never too old to learn. We OC folks find our Oak Grove brothers and sisters to be a genuinely hospitable and Christ-like group of believers and a joy with whom to interact. We’re glad we’re here!
Our Sunday began with some large Sunday school classes followed by a message by Steve Byler entitled Theology – Philosophy of Music.
In the afternoon we enjoyed a visit to Mountain View Nursing Home where we sang the fascinating residents. It made such a good impression that some of us want to go there when we get old. We were given a tour of the facilities and felt happy for them that the renovations are all over because it sounds like it must’ve been a harrowing 3 years.
Our evening concert differed a bit from the norm. We demonstrated the polyphony in some of the songs before singing them to aide the audience in understanding what was happening. At intermission Eric Hershberger led the children’s choir from yesterday in a smashing medley of some “spirituals”. The evening ended with a mass choir consisting of OC and the folks from Aroda who chose to join us for 3 songs. The grand finale was the entire congregation standing together and singing 606 (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow).
We began Friday morning with a warm tour of Faith Mission Home. As we began our tour at 9:00 it was 87* in the shade of the front porch and when we left at 10:00 it was 92*.
Stan, our trusty bus driver skillfully took us over hill, over dale and past vast horse farms to Charlottesville. There we found some lunch and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon going in and out of the air conditioned shops so as to be able to endure the sauna-like streets. Most of us partook of some refreshingly cool substance such as gelato or iced coffee. Or maybe it was two iced coffees.
We arrived at Oak Grove Mennonite Church around 4:00. While some of us attempted to rest in the sanctuary, some others rid themselves of pent up energy during a soccer game in the basement after the wheeled suitcase they were using for leap frog was forbidden them.
In the evening we had a hymn sing led by Nathan Good, followed by a message on Worshiping God in Spirit by Wayne Yoder. Afterwards we had a choir rehearsal including those from the area who chose to join us for 3 songs in our repertoire. By the time that was over, it was high time to head to our comfortable lodgings for a good night’s rest.
On Thursday we met at Calvary Church at the relaxed meeting time of 10:30 and headed to Golden Corral for an ample brunch. It was perhaps the first time those two waitresses had a thank you song sung to them.
From there we headed to Faith Mission Home where the air conditioned church was a welcome relief from the humid Virginia July Weather. The switch between AC and Outside these days is rather startling but so far we’ve all survived.
We shared supper with the staff and residents at FMH and sang to a church house filled to the balcony with eager recipients. This was the first time Oasis has returned to FMH since it’s inception there in 2003. About time, eh? Five of our choir members are former FMHers and six of us participated in the first OC tour in Ireland.
This extremely warm Tuesday morning found us heading to Harrisonburg, VA by 9:00. Wendell and Stan each told us a story as a reward for our speedy roll calls. We experienced a variety of lunches over our leisurely noon hour. Our program at Parkview Mennonite Church was well attended and we were blessed by the benediction the audience sang for us. The locals were delighted to go home to their very own beds to sleep. The rest of us were also happy to be given local beds in which to rest our singing souls and bodies.
Wednesday morning found us at Calvary Mennonite Fellowship where were given much food for thought by Steve Byler. The subject of our “food” was Beauty and specifically The Arts. Why Beauty? We discovered quite a few questions and maybe even several answers. After some sectional music practice we relaxed our brains with some play time, which included everything from building blocks and Memory to coloring books and Taboo. We were then served a Fabulous chicken barbecue meal followed by multiple desserts.
To finish off the day we warmly fellow-shipped in the gym over some volleyball. We are truly experiencing “Warm” southern hospitality!
We sang to a full house of over 500 attentive listeners at Neffsville Mennonite on Sunday evening. The acoustics were lovely. Many of us had friends in the area who came to hear us, which enhanced our joy.
We met at Faith Mennonite School again on Monday morning for a last rehearsal before heading to Cedars Church of Christ in Wilmington, Delaware for our Monday evening program.
We were interested to discover that most churches of this denomination use only acapella music in their services, as do the churches which we represent. The crowd was considerably smaller than last night, but just as welcoming and appreciative. We were divvied out among them for a good night’s sleep and returned to the church in great condition to begin our jaunt to Harrisonburg.
Wendell warmly admonished us to take care of our voices before they need extra attention. Nurse Phil did a Hand Sanitizer Dispensing Sweep followed by a Vitamin C Distribution Trip through the bus.
Our first program on Saturday evening at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church was well received and an encouraging start to our tour despite a few spots we discovered that still need some work.
Sunday morning found us at Weavertown Amish Mennonite Church where we sang for about a half hour between Sunday School and the message on Trust. We were then served a scrumptious meal, during which we enjoyed our conversation with both locals and some visiting Muslim and Catholic students from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt.
Neffsville Mennonite Church is our Sunday evening concert location after which we will again return to our Lancaster lodgings.
From choral warm ups and back rubs in the morning to volleyball in the evening was the first day of rehearsal, and it was good. We are met at Faith Mennonite High School for these 2 1/2 days of bringing our 32 voices together in preparation for the next two weeks of concerts. We are sometimes pleasantly surprised and sometimes otherwise surprised by what we produce.
The highlight of our second day came after our evening text study. Anna King played some hymns for us on 21 crystal goblets. We soaked up every minute of it.
We are enjoying excellent meals; one choir member suggest they’re trying to fatten us up with all these choice desserts.
On this our third day we are attempting to put finishing touches on everything so as to be able to give the best we can give at our first concert this evening.