Severna Park choir leads them not into temptation

November 02, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

When Dale Sedgwick's friends egg him on to join them "getting in trouble," the 14-year-old thinks about church choir.

"I think about the songs and then I tell them no," he says. "I think the other kids would be better off if they were Christians, too."

Going to church every week on a school night to practice religious songs may not attract all high school juniors, but Asbury Town Neck United Methodist Church wants to reverse that.

Youth choir director Dale Cager hopes that every young person in the Severna Park congregation will find the security and good teaching shared by the choir's 35 members.

Yesterday afternoon, the youth choir held a special, first-year anniversary concert to celebrate the choir's organization and growth as a significant part of the church.

"We have noticed how the children have matured. We feel the choir has enhanced their understanding of Jesus," said Ms. Cager, 35.

Observed church member Janet Pack: "We've seen a lot of attitudes completely change. It's positive for them and the other children in the church."

Getting ready for yesterday's event, the choir practiced a swaying march down the red-carpeted isle, singing and sashaying to the beat with organist Oliver Jennings.

The smallest member of the choir, 3-year-old Lanard Pack, headed cautiously for the altar, his eyes round and serious.

"He likes to sing," said his mother, Olanda Pack. "In church, he'll be going to town, and he marches around during the offering. So they asked him to join up in the choir."

She said the choir is instilling lasting values in her toddler. "He's not just singing worldly songs off the radio," she said. "He's singing about God and how God created us. All I let Lanard listen to all day long is gospel."

Last Monday, while the choir practiced "If You're Happy and You Know It, Say Amen!" Ms. Cager talked about how the group began.

A year ago, the church pastor, the Rev. Ronald Ward, asked the congregation to revive a youth choir. "God touched me, and I said, 'I'll do it,' " Ms. Cager said.

Ms. Cager, a computer support supervisor with the Defense Department, called every family in the church and asked them whether they would bring their children to a rehearsal. Many came and remain committed.

"We've bonded our hearts," she said. "The congregation is very supportive, and I love doing this. It's where I get my joy, to see how I can reach out and touch their hearts."

Ms. Cager and two assistants, Deneen Frazer and Iris Sedgwick, meet with the children every Monday night. Last week, they worked hard to refine four-part harmony with dozens of energetic elementary and middle-schoolers.

Ms. Cage, wearing a sweat shirt with "JESUS" on the front, was all over the church, coaching, reprimanding, giving encouraging pats on the shoulder. "Quiet down!" she remonstrated. "Don't go too fast. OK, here we go!"

Said Eurecka Brown, 10: "Ms. Cager, she gets on us when we play around. But I think it's good to be corrected. I think she's trying to help us."

The Oak Hill Elementary student added that some of her school friends joined the choir when she told them about it. "It keeps us off the street, and we learn about Jesus," Eurecka said. "And singing is fun."

Eurecka's grandmother, Gladys Pack, 72, is a member of the senior choir; about 20 youth choir children are related to the senior citizens who also sing during services.

"I've been in this church 50 years," Mrs. Pack says, "and I like having her in a choir, too. She always tells me, 'Grandma, I've got to go to rehearsal.' They know what they've got to do and come on out."

One young mother, Pamela Boone, brings 6-year-old Latice to choir practice. "It helps her stay interested in church," says Mrs. Boone, who enjoyed singing in her own church choir as a child. "She's learning songs that have meaning about God, and that's good for her."

When the choir finished practicing the march and sat down to sing, Dale Sedgwick found his place in the back row. "Some of my friends respect the fact that I go to church," said the Severna Park middle school student. "Even if they don't, my Dad told me to not do what other people tell me; do what I think. And I like singing."

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