Joining to Make A Joyful Noise

Jul 6, 2022 | Stories from the Diocese

As COVID cases began to fall and churches returned to in-person worship, the staff of Grace Church, Kilmarnock considered ways to encourage people to re-engage in church life. They came to consensus that music might not only help heal the community but also bring people back together, including those who do not normally attend a church. To make it happen, Grace Church developed a series called Saturday Night Thrive which features a wide variety of worship styles and various genres of music.

In the midst of planning the series, the Rev. Jeff Patnaude, Associate Rector, felt called to form a gospel choir to perform at one of the Saturday services. He began pitching the idea to pastors at three African-American congregations in the area. The pastors all agreed to give it a try.

Campbell Presbyterian Church member, Susan Brooks Thomas, admitted she was nervous at the first rehearsal. “Some [people] felt awkward, not used to the exuberance or lack of sheet music.”

Music Director Sam Oliver sensed this and encouraged people to push themselves out of their comfort zones and really lift their voices in praise. “We sang in our best voice, whatever style, and focused on nothing but the hymns,” recalls Susan. “And the Holy Spirit sang with us. God came down and he was pleased with our praise. We made a joyful noise.”

The Joyful Noise Gospel Choir brings together members from four churches in the region: Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Church of the Deliverance, and Campbell Memorial Presbyterian Church and Grace Episcopal Church.

They have held three performances so far – at Grace Church, the Church of Deliverance and the Hughlett Tavern. The performance at the Tavern was part of a Juneteenth celebration. Joyful Noise is scheduled to return to Grace Church for a September performance at Saturday Night Thrive and will be highlighted at the local Community in Unity celebration in October.

The choir is also serving as a catalyst for deepening relationships across racial lines. The Rev. Donald Conaway and the leadership at the Church of the Deliverance sponsored a potluck dinner following the gospel performance and worship service at their church. The congregations broke the ice as they broke bread together.

Already the churches have plans to partner on several projects. Grace Church plans to provide a grant to help Deliverance pay for a much-needed new roof. Deliverance will be helping to provide volunteers to run Grace’s annual yard sale. Together, the congregations will be picking up donations and working on sales in the warehouse. Last year, the yard sale distributed over $90,000 to non-profit organizations serving the Northern Neck. Now, with two congregations working together as Christ hands and feet in the community, the fruits of their ministry will be even more abundant.