The Gulf Coast Choir Festival took place last night at First Baptist Church, Long Beach, Mississippi.
The day after Katrina, this is what that place looked like. They have several pages of pictures devoted to before and after August 29, 2005. The Preschool building picture is the scariest.
But that's not what last night was about. It was about the opportunity to praise God from Whom all blessings flow. They did not believe that the church was the building. They knew that they, the people, were the church. And they kept on being the church. And because they did, we had such a wonderful time singing His praises last night.
Sitting in the crowd last night, I started thinking about all the connections I saw. First of all, there was the church itself. Our pastor, Dr. T, was a member of that church when he lived in Long Beach. Through our Kentucky connections, we were able to help them get their offices re-established immediately after Katrina. Computers and other office equipment helped them organize.
Churches from all over the Gulf Coast were there. I saw someone we knew when we went to FBC Gautier. This couple moved to Ocean Springs and now sings with the FBC Ocean Springs choir. The youth pastor of church was very nearly called to Agricola 6 or 7 years ago. He and some of his students were singing with the adult choir. I remember at the time being disappointed that his call to Agricola didn't happen. But if it had, we wouldn't have met Mark and his family, who are simply incredible people!
Bel-Aire Baptist Church was there, too. Two years ago they lost their pastor, Lowry Anderson, very suddenly to cancer. He and his wife Kandi were great friends of our pastor and his wife. Both Bro. Lowry and Kandi have spoken at our church. Dr. T preached the funeral.
Another choir present was FBC Pascagoula. Twenty years ago, I rang with their handbells. Gary Anglin was the music minister then, and he's back there now. I recognized so many familiar faces.
I think the biggest connection was with LeMoyne Boulevard Baptist Church. And I don't know a single person at that church or in that choir. But that's where our Minister of Music, Nick Wolfe, was until Christmas.
And they loved him.
And they still do.
The scheduling of the choirs had LeMoyne Blvd following just after Agricola. And because each director lead a congregational hymn while his choir exited the loft and the next choir filed in, Bro. Nick was there in front of his other choir. At one point he turned to face them, like he does frequently, and my heart went out to all of them, including him. Their faces told such a story. Until they have a new full time worship leader, they will still feel like they are Nick's choir. I understand. I've had that same feeling toward pastors and other worship leaders in my lifetime. I pray that the Lord is preparing them (and the one He has chosen to lead them) for more than they can ask or imagine.
Thank you, Lord, for connecting us as Your children.