Bluegrass, a brand of Appalachian string band music, with roots in Celtic, and African genres, is not normally used as a prelude to a traditional Episcopal Holy Eucharist Rite.
But on Sunday, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Apalachicola, it worked to pack pews with visitors, plus bring other local musicians into the fold.
“It was certainly unprecedented. But we need to be open-minded,” said singer Tony Partington of Cat-Pointe Music in Eastpoint and The Recollections jazz band. “I’m sure there were some not keen on this idea. But, proof was in the pudding, that people came.”
The headcount for Sunday’s service was 150 people. The Rev. Donna Gerold, Trinity’s interim priest and celebrant for the day, said a regular Sunday attendance this time of year is around 60.
She said she had heard of this concept before and said, “I tossed the idea of a blue grass Eucharist out as an example of something we could do to invite the community into Trinity, see our beautiful historic church building and let them have the experience of an Episcopal service.
“I mentioned it to one or two people, including our choir director, Randy Mims, and he jumped on it. Then it took on a life of its own,” she said. “We have so many artistic and creative people at Trinity it was easy for it to take flight.”
The group was made up of Carol Harris, of Wombat Sound Music Store, Bill Jones of Tallahassee on banjo, Brooks Jones, who sings in the choir, Chris Clark on upright bass, and Mims. These musicians also perform together at several local gigs, as the “Sing-Alongs,” “Shaken & Stirred” and “Celtics on the Half Shell.”
The first tunes were Christian hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and African-American folk spiritual “Down to the River to Pray. This was followed by a liturgy, prayers of the people written by parishioner Kristin Anderson, of Long Dream Gallery, and communion processional.
Of the musical setting, there was “still enough of the traditional service to set the tone,” Anderson said.
“We are nicknamed the’ frozen chosen’” she said of the church’s stoic congregation
“Not today! We needed this,” said Debbie Flowers, of St. George Island, of the toe-tapping energy.
“There is no better place” to experiment with the question of what would Jesus do to welcome people to worship, said Partington.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Harris.