by H. Shirley Horne
The 15 member Praise Team of the Hampton Wesleyan Church is a joy to behold. Their rousing gospel songs are reminiscent of the spirituals of the deep south and almost make you want to join in and dance with joy. Perhaps it's a result of the soul searching they do in preparation. They strive to understand the meaning behind their songs and why they sing them. They sing from the heart.
The praise team doesn't think of itself as mainly "an up-front group." Explains Pastor Dwight Ingersoll, "We're just as happy singing in the congregation as with the team. In fact only half of the team sings as a choir each Sunday." He thinks that "as soon as you start performing (exclusively) you tend to forget we're all one family. We're worshiping God." Says Pastor Ingersoll, "There's a genuine family atmosphere in our church. We care for one another."
But what's really surprising is that this large talented group was recruited from Hampton Wesleyan Church with its tiny congregation of 75. Included are instrumentalists as well: Pastor Dwight Ingersoll beating on his Djembe (African drum) and his wife Shelley having a wonderful time on keyboard. (She has a rather extensive musical background and has begun writing some of their songs); Cora Gilroy and Emily Inman on flute, Ruth Boulter on saxophone, Janet Lake on guitar, Ben Boulter on bass guitar and Nathan Visser on drums. All singers use professional microphones so you never miss a word.
Pastor Ingersoll says, "Though our music has a Celtic influence-some Irish and UK-I would say the style of music that I came with would probably be southern gospel." The praise team has a repertoire of about 300 songs. Members often contribute songs and ideas. Several, though not all, have sung in choirs previously and are from varied backgrounds: there's a truck driver, a beef farmer, and several office workers. So far their voices ring out mainly in unison. They may try some harmonizing soon. Meanwhile rehearsals on Monday nights and before church services on Sunday are rarely missed.
How about adding the rousing strains of a fiddle? "We d love to have a fiddle," they all chorus.
Pastor Ingersoll, a preacher's son from Lunenburg, NS, his wife Shelley from Fredericton, NB, and their two sons, have lived in Crapaud since they came to PEI three years ago. They say, "We love it here. This church seems the right place for us to be."
Next summer the Hampton Wesleyan Church Praise Team plans to take their songs of praise outdoors into the churchyard.