This article was written by Venita MacGorman, Area 9 Education Chair
Photos courtesy Marci Corey, Area 9 Treasurer
I was part of a fourteen person volunteer team that visited Westmoreland, Jamaica, with one goal – teach music reading to adults and children in the Savanna-la-Mar Circuit. The circuit is made up of six churches, all of which are pastored by the Rev. Abasilum Smith. Members of all six churches met at the Wesley Chapel in Savanna-la-Mar.
The Methodist Church in the Caribbean has a wonderful new hymnal that makes use of traditional Caribbean melodies and that contains hymns with inclusive language. There are very few trained musicians in the circuit, and the Wesley Chapel is the only one that owns a musical instrument. There has been very little opportunity for the church members to learn the new hymns in their hymnal up to this point.
We started each day with a worship service and then split into two large choral groups. The two groups worked on the music reading process, using choral technique, and learning some of the great new hymns. Those who attended then rotated between classes in keyboard, recorder, guitar, percussion, and music games. With all of this reinforcement and with no days off between class days, the groups made an incredible amount of progress in just four to five days of instruction. We had a sharing time each evening during which each group shared something they had been working on during the day. Our very last sharing was amazing – eight guitar students, four keyboard students, and a number of percussion students accompanied some enthusiastic group singing. It was an amazing beginning!!!
I have been a part of a number of mission teams over my career in church music – VBS teams, medical teams, construction teams, and now music teams. No one team ever completes a project; there is always more to be built, more to be learned, and more sick and injured to be healed. We did not teach the Jamaicans everything they need to know in order to read and make full use of their hymnal. A second team will go in July to take the group a bit farther. Who knows what will happen next in the lives of those attending church in the Savanna-la-Mar Circuit now that they are learning new exciting ways to worship in their hometown?!