Submitted Smith Chapel-Campground Christian Choir members model their new choir shirts, funded in part by a grant from the Golden Cross Foundation. Choir members include: (front row, from left) Tom Culver, Diane Clark, Brenda Williams, Sherry Culver, (back row) Corrynne Clements, Dane Clark, Cheryl Schmaeman, Rhett Schmaeman, Wanda Smith, David Williams and Lisa Clements. Choir member Diane Morrison is not pictured.

Submitted

Smith Chapel-Campground Christian Choir members model their new choir shirts, funded in part by a grant from the Golden Cross Foundation. Choir members include: (front row, from left) Tom Culver, Diane Clark, Brenda Williams, Sherry Culver, (back row) Corrynne Clements, Dane Clark, Cheryl Schmaeman, Rhett Schmaeman, Wanda Smith, David Williams and Lisa Clements.

Choir member Diane Morrison is not pictured.

Just over a year ago, Tom and Sherry Culver decided … the more, the merrier.

“My wife started doing specials with me (at church),” Tom Culver – who plays the piano at Smith Chapel United Methodist Church in Red Boiling Springs – said. “She and I had started doing our own little thing and going to nursing homes and things like that. I heard one of the (church) members say that I wish we had a choir here. Sherry and I said, ‘Why don’t we venture into the idea of it?’ We said, ‘Why don’t we give it a try?’

“We had a great response. We had 10 people. Sherry and I were already going to the nursing home here in Red Boiling Springs, so we said, ‘Why not get the choir to go there?’”

It has all fallen together since that time, just as it did when the Culvers began attending Smith Chapel in October of 2016.

“Sherry and I first got married, and we were going around to different churches looking for a home church,” Culver said. “We were going to a church in Carthage, but we were always late (due to the distance).

“We saw a sign (for Smith Chapel). We walked in there, and it was just like home. We started going there. It was just awesome.”

The Culvers began to sing special songs at Smith Chapel and also at nearby Campground United Methodist Church, located on the Clay County side of Red Boiling Springs. Joel Johnson pastors both churches, preaching at the 9:30 a.m. service each Sunday at Smith Chapel before traveling to Campground for the 11 a.m. service.

So, the Smith Chapel-Campground Christian Choir formed when the Culvers decided to see what the response to forming a choir was like.

“We love to sing at Smith Chapel,” choir member Brenda Williams said. “We have great choir directors, Tom and Sherry Culver. They herd us like cats. We really appreciate them.

“It’s a happy church. We try to make it a safe, happy place for people to worship.”

Both churches are relatively small, with Smith Chapel consisting of approximately 45 attendees on Sundays and Campground hovering around 25.

In addition to singing at the Palace Care and Rehabilitation Center in Red Boiling Springs, the choir performs at fifth Sunday services at both churches, has performed at a community cookout held by Smith Chapel, and has performed at a Veterans Day luncheon as well.

“From day one, it has (been great),” Culver said. “It’s been an amazing experience for my wife and I, and the choir is pretty excited about it all.”
Earlier this year, Williams became aware of a grant that the choir could apply for.

“We started the choir for older adults,” Williams said. “The grant was open to any ministry for older adults. The choir was already in its infancy. I thought we might could get a handy, dandy keyboard that would be easy to transport and the speakers.”

The grant is funded by the Golden Cross Foundation, a non-profit corporation and extension ministry of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. It provides funding assistance for new and ongoing ministries and services with older adults in the Tennessee Conference and provides expertise and strategic planning to the conference for the expansion of innovative and effective ministries with older adults.

“I wrote the grant proposal,” Williams said. “The grant is open to even churches that are not United Methodist. It’s for any organization by and for older adults. There was a meeting of United Methodists that we were invited to, and that’s the way I heard about it.”

Williams applied for the grant in April, was informed that the choir was being awarded the $2,528 grant in May, and received the funding in June.

“We were very pleased,” Williams said. “They told us that they wanted to award the money. They’re pretty generous.”

Smith Chapel contributed another $1,500 to the choir, allowing for the purchase of a keyboard, speakers and equipment. There was even enough funds to purchase choir shirts.

“We wanted it to make us more mobile,” Williams said.

The choir attempts to conduct weekly practices.

“We practice for an hour every Sunday after service,” Culver said. “We practice. We practice. We practice. We practice … and when we’re done practicing, we practice some more.

“It’s a lot of commitment. It’s the old adage, practice makes perfect. The more we do it, the more comfortable we become with each other. It does become easier, but it’s still a lot of commitment. You do something and you like doing it, and it has a tendency to be good and for you to be better at it.”

The choir members have seen positive response.

“The church hosts a community picnic there in the park in Red Boiling Springs every year,” Culver said. “People hear music, and it tends to draw people in. That went over really well.”

Williams added, “We have people who come to the community cookout who enjoy it too. It’s joyous to perform and have people sing (songs back) to you.”

However, the greatest response comes during the choir’s visits to the Palace.

“Music is good for people who are declining cognitively,” Williams said. “It’s good to keep cognition. It’s good for older people.

“To take it to the nursing home is special. Especially nursing homes, when you perform at a nursing home, they appreciate that so much. Folks are so lonesome. You take music to them, and although cognitively, they may have declined, but they always remember music. They will sing with us. It gives us great joy to sing to the people in the nursing homes that can’t get out.”

Culver echoed those sentiments.

“You have to see the people at this nursing home … they love us … and we love them,” Culver said. “It’s an awesome experience to be a part of. It was such a heartwarming thing to see the smile on the people. They’re sitting and tapping their feet. You’re like, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’ It makes you want to go back.”

Culver is hopeful that the choir can do more of the same in the future.

“Our plan is … time allotted … is to visit other nursing homes in the area,” Culver said.