By Tyler Roebuck
Shawn Kirchner, Mutual Kumquat, and Andy and Terry Murray performed in a hymn sing and concert sponsored by Bethany Theological Seminary, after worship on the first evening of the 2016 Annual Conference. The Guilford Ballroom at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C., was packed with Brethren eager to sing their hearts out and hear the work of these fine musicians.
The evening started with an introduction by Bethany president Jeff Carter, shortly before Shawn Kirchner led the body into the classic hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Kirchner followed the hymn by discussing the interesting balance between new and old songs. “Every old song we treasure was once new,” he said. “Even all of our old folk songs, which have been weathered like stones, were once a bright individual idea.”
Kirchner flowed between hymns with the gracefulness of a storyteller and the skill of a symphony. As a transition, he invited to the stage Mutual Kumquat, a Church of the Brethren “modern folk/indie” band that plays religious music, to help him introduce his new song “Gospel Train.” With the Kumquats taking the stage, the feel of the event shifted from a sing along to a concert.
Playing familiar songs as well as older ones, Mutual Kumquat had the crowd gleefully singing along as they progressed through their concert. As a nod to the Murrays, they performed “Brave Man from Ohio” with a notable Mutual Kumquat flare. When they were finished, Andy and Terry Murray took the stage to perform their song “Goodbye Still Night.”
In a powerful conclusion, the Kumquats and Kirchner led the assembly in “Peace Before Us,” and the singing became more melodious with each verse. Brothers and sisters separated into multi-part harmonies, the musicians slowed the last verse, and the united body stood to embrace the exquisiteness of the chord.
The 2016 Annual Conference News Team includes: writers Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Tyler Roebuck, Monica McFadden; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; Conference Journal editor Eddie Edmonds; web manager Jan Fischer Bachman; web staff Russ Otto; editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.