Sixty people of all ages gather at Sam's Creek Church of the Brethren on a rainy Sunday evening to sing "Showers of Blessing," "Sunshine In My Soul" and other gospel favorites at the church's sixth annual Hymn Sing.
A few miles north, a similar event features lifted voices at Mayberry First Church of God.
Hymn sings blend inspiration and enjoyment, fellowship and an opportunity to call out an old favorite learned as a child. Or perhaps offer a song grandma played on the pump organ.
The Rev. Paul N. Leatherman, Sam's Creek's volunteer pastor for 11 years, says a hymn sing "gives people a chance to sing a SONG THEy haven't sung for awhile.
"The inspiring lyrics and familiar melodies are an uplifting experience," he says. "We reach out and invite others just to enjoy the evening."
The pastor explains that music is both an evangelical andan educational tool. The messages in hymns are a "witness of the Word," he says, "and hearing songs we haven't heard before widens our musical horizons."
At Mayberry, where various organizations within the church traditionally plan a spring and fall hymn sing, the event is sponsored by the Sunday school.
"We enjoy the fellowship of other people and also enjoy their music," says Mary Carl, a primary-classSunday school teacher, who took charge of inviting groups from otherchurches to participate. "We (also) like to attend other church's hymn sings."
While hymn sings are very popular among those who attend, Carl notes that there seem to be fewer of the events at area churches.
For Mary Armstrong, who journeyed to Sam's Creek from her home near Black Rock Church of the Brethren in Brodbecks, Pa., the highlight of the evening is calling out a favorite song for everyone to sing. It is why she came.
Her pick? "O Jesus, Thou Art Standing" from the songbook, "Favorite Hymns of Praise."
Some of the selectionsare unfamiliar to some, even to Leatherman.
"That's part of the fun," he says.
Others choose the more familiar "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder," "His Eye is on the Sparrow," "Great is Thy Faithfulness," and, of course, "Amazing Grace," the all-time favorite hymn, according to a poll of church members in 25 denominations.
The pastor's wife, Joann, plans the program, prepares a printed bulletin and invites special musical guests, such as soloist Vessa Lawrence of Finksburg; tenor Dennis Trout of Emmitsburg; and
the 10-member Paul Albaugh Family of Union Bridge, who sing and play instruments.
Then,after playing the organ prelude, the pastor's wife provides accompaniment for the congregational singing on the antique upright piano.
Music fills the one-room, 125-year-old meeting house, as singers sitstraight-backed in dark-stained pews or stand beneath the hanging lights. Flickering candles grace the altar beneath a painting of Christpraying in Gethsemane.
"We're family here," says church treasurerRoma Green.
At Mayberry, organist Debbie Carl says church memberssponsor hymn sings because "we are into music and like to hear otherpeople using their talents for the Lord. It's good fellowship."
Her brother, David, the Sunday school superintendent, leads in singinghymns.
Members of the Mayberry Instrumental Group -- David, Dannyand Debbie Carl; pastor Bob Wills, his brother Joe and son Jack -- play for the congregation and sing in the 12-member Mayberry choir.
Visiting musical groups include the Haines Family, the Ecker Family and David and Sandy Miller, all of Westminster, and choirs from the Edgewood and Meadow Branch churches of the Brethren.