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Hymns, humor flourish at St. Bedes

Music fundraiser nets $3,155 as choir sings all day in Forest Grove


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN SCHRAG - Hymn numbers are counted down Sunday on a white poster as organist Jeannine Jordan accompanies the St. Bedes Episcopal Church choir in Forest Grove.A request for the choir to sing hymn 493, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” came all the way from Topeka, Kan.

Jeannine Jordan — who has commuted from Lincoln City to western Washington County three weekends a month since 2010 to accompany the St. Bede’s Episcopal Church choir on the organ — said her own parents paid for the privilege during Sunday’s “hymn-a-thon” at the Forest Grove parish, a fundraiser for its music ministry.

Jordan, who grew up in the United Methodist church and whose mother played piano during services, would play the organ at home on Sunday afternoons as her family joined in singing. Hymn 493 just happens to be the first tune in the Methodist hymnal.

St. Bede’s, located on Elm Street, is a small church that has faced financial strains in recent months, noted Vicar Julie Honig Smith. Its aging congregation, however, was only too happy to support the hymn-a-thon, during which a dozen choir members sang at least one verse of all 720 songs in the Episcopal hymnal.

It took from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for them to do so, but choir member Linda Jackson of Buxton awoke far earlier than that on March 2.

“Today is going to be different,” Jackson said to herself as she got ready for church. Despite the seriousness of the effort — budget constraints had put Jordan’s job on the line — “it’s going to be silly and fun,” she thought.

Choir members bought into the idea of a hymn-a-thon weeks ago, after Nancy Longatan ran across an article in her morning newspaper about a congregation that sponsored a 24-hour sing-a-thon relay that raised thousands of dollars. If Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Portland could do it, they reasoned, St. Bede’s could, too. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN SCHRAG - Vicar Julie Honig Smith (foreground) sings with the St. Bedes choir as members raised money during a March 2 hymn-a-thon.

“We are a small church,” said Honig Smith. “We have been able to run on reserve funds in the past, but we are at the era where we have to stay within our means.”

After collecting pledges for the first verse of every hymn sung, the group multiplied donations by encouraging congregants and community members to sponsor the remaining verses. In addition to the choir, other musicians played the guitar and piano — and Jordan filled the sanctuary with the melodic strains of the electronic pipe organ. From time to time, members of the choir stepped out for a cup of hot tea to soothe their hoarse throats or enjoy the potluck spread provided by supporters.

Throughout the day, lively tunes brought the choir and audience to their feet. Smith danced and clapped to an upbeat song. One chorus was sung in a round. Song numbers were marked off on white poster board so no hymn would be missed.

In the days leading up to the hymn-a-thon, the group didn’t practice the entire hymnal, instead choosing to sight-read many selections Sunday. “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” “Seek Ye First,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Rock of Ages” and a rendition of “Amazing Grace” all resonated inside the St. Bede’s sanctuary.

For Jackson, the results — $3,155 out of a $4,000 goal, and many smiling faces — were well worth the effort.

“I think what’s special about what we’re doing is that we are such a small choir,” she said. “We’re fortunate enough to have connected with Jeannine Jordan — she is world-class and an amazing music director.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN SCHRAG - All Things Bright and Beautiful was a popular hymn, garnering a number of greenbacks from folks supporting the music program at St. Bedes Episcopal Church.“A small rural church doesn’t often have access to talent like this. We all know we are part of something special.”

Throughout the day, money poured in from across the state and from as far away as Lynchburg, Va. — donations that ranged from 10 cents to a dollar per song. Mason jars were set out so listeners could drop in a donation and vote for their favorite hymns, which will be presented on St. Bede’s Day in June.

Members new and old came and went throughout the day to support the committed choir members. Elizabeth Powers, who has been attending St. Bede’s for only two months, got on board, donating her talents as accompanist on the piano.

Describing the experience as “inspirational,” Jackson noted she and others had harbored a secret weapon to keep the singing going. “Anyone committing to singing 720 hymns has to have a sense of humor,” she noted.



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