The first one I remember was Fred Mallory. He was the Minister of Music when my dad was pastor of Benson Baptist. Next came Bill Caudle—the Inimitable Bill Caudle! My dad and Bill Caudle were such a great match during the short time they served together at Five Points Missionary Baptist in Wilson. (The Mitchell and Caudle offspring made some real 70’s childhood magic, too!) There were several after Mr. Caudle whose names have left me; there have been quite a few more since I graduated from college and moved away.
Stan Pylant (now Dr. Stan Pylant) was at First Baptist Oklahoma City when we were there from 1988-1992. Stan was the first music minister I had who was my peer; he and Kirsten married while we were members there. Back then, the choir loft at FBC OKC was just below the eaves (the church has since been renovated); it’s a wonder the choir didn’t experience altitude sickness. Yet if Stan ever had a fear of heights, I never knew it. It certainly didn’t affect his enthusiasm for sacred music, I know that.
When we joined First Baptist Sanford, NC, David Early (d. July 3, 2013), had already been there the better part of two decades. What a presence! When I recall Rev. Early, I recall laughter. He retired a couple of years after we joined the church; we moved a couple of years after that. It’s telling of his ministry though, that although my time with him was brief, 20 years after his retirement, I can still remember his name, his smile, his joy.
When we joined First Baptist of Asheville, we came to know Clark and Karen Sorrells, Minister and Assistant Minister of Music. My kids hardly remember any other music ministers as they were 5, 7, & 9 back in 2004 when we arrived at FBCA. The Sorrells’ leadership in the spiritual formation of my children is incalculable. The standard Clark and Karen set for sacrificial excellence informed their choices far beyond the walls of the church building. Over the years, all three of my children have sung in choirs, performed in musicals, played instruments in ensembles, and journeyed across the country (and beyond) on choir tours led by the Sorrells. My kids went to countless rehearsals learning that every individual matters, every single time even as they learned that no one person can ever accomplish alone what an entire musical group can do together. Clark and Karen have given more to my children than their professional positions would require of them; but, to my knowledge, they’ve never counted the costs. As a result, I cannot measure the return on their investment in my children’s lives. It runs both deep and wide and I am truly grateful.
Though the rest of the family still belongs to FBCA, I’ve moved up the road to First Baptist of Weaverville where each week I am blessed by the gifts of our Director of Music, Jane McCoy. During the school year, she leads our children’s choir: a widely varied group of kids who range from church-born-and-raised to “Church? What’s that?” She transforms this squirmy crew into musicians as I listen from my office down the hall, amazed and humbled by her giftedness and dedication. Later that night, she holds adult choir rehearsal, preparing to add depth and meaning to Sunday’s service. Jane adds such rich variety and holy purpose to our worship that our church, while not the biggest in the area, offers some of the best music to be found. Weekly, I am blessed. Daily, I am thankful.
Of course, there are other church musicians who have blessed my life. People like Allegra Poole, Robert Bresch, Eric Wall, Anna Anderson, Dotty Bowman, Terry Childers, Heather Anderson, David Foster, and more. So many more who have ministered to me through their musical leadership and talents.
So to all of you, thank you. Thank you for giving yourself to church music and thereby to me. You have helped form some of my favorite parts of me. Indeed, I worship as I do, I know God as I do, in great part because of each one of you. Thank you. I have been blessed by your ministry and I am—literally—eternally grateful.
The 50 Thank You Notes project started as a continued celebration of my 50th birthday on 7-22-2015. It's taken a little longer than the year I allotted, so I'm extending my self-induced deadline. We'll just see where this goes, shall we?
Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.
My favorite July 4th story: Meredith (oh what) Grace
Thank you #20: to my wife
Thank You #18: Library Staff
Thank You #17 Cameron Brown
Thank You #16: My Favorite Mother-in-Law
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Teachers: Public School Ministers
The Good Immigrant: A Parable Retold