Music: The universal language of praise

By Greg Gelpi

s one voice, one community they came together for one purpose - praise.

Ranging from children in grade school to senior citizens, from veteran musicians to those just learning, members of Jonesboro First Baptist Church united for a church-wide orchestra performance.

"This is just an awesome experience," violinist John Waller said. "It's as close as I can come to the Atlanta Symphony. It's one of the most rewarding experiences I ever do."

Waller, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot, would fly international flights and practice playing violin during layovers.

Waller said the church-wide orchestra also serves as a recruiting tool for the church's regular orchestra. Through the event, the orchestra can reach out to various segments of the church community and draw them together through the common bond of music.

Waller has played steadily for 51 years, but his fellow orchestra member Lynn Tew hadn't picked up her instrument in 26 years.

"The last I played was in 1978," Tew said. "I'm not doing too bad."

Hearing the call to perform, she borrowed a flute for the music ministry's Sunday performance.

"I thought it would be fun to pick it up again," Tew said. "It just seems to be coming back."

Tew joined her husband Bill Tew on the trumpet and others in practice Saturday and Sunday before playing a the church's Sunday evening service.

At only the age of 14, Mundy's Mill High School student Greg Myrthil moved to Jonesboro about a year ago and said the church-wide orchestra enabled him to meet people. With five years of experience, he joined the orchestra with his flute.

"I just felt like doing something for the church," Myrthil said.

Although unable to perform with the orchestra, Elbert Hicks, 82, played violin with the church's regular orchestra until recently when health problems forced him to hang up his bow.

Under the direction of David Martin, the church-wide orchestra is one more way that Jonesboro First Baptist Church is trying to reach out to the community.

With nine languages, all ages and several ethnic groups represented in the church congregation, Jesus Christ is the "bond" that brings the group together and music is the "vehicle," he said.

"Music is the vehicle by which we can learn to praise and worship," Martin said.

To jazz up the performance, members of the orchestra played a kazoo march during "Rise and Shine."

"That's just another way to involve the congregation," he said. "When was the last time you heard a kazoo in a church?"