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Celebrating Martin Luther King's Birthday with Song

There was singing and clapping; singing and praying; more clapping; and more singing.

Members of 15 local church choirs gathered for the Eighth Annual Ventures in Community Choir Festival. Good Shepherd Catholic Church was the host this year, easily accommodating the overflowing crowd.

The concert began with the Trinity Handbell Choir of Bethany Lutheran Church doing a rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After an opening greeting and prayer by the Rev. George Griffin, pastor of Good Shepherd Catholic Church, the hand bells continued with “Ring the Bells of Freedom.” When it culminated in the familiar tune of “My Country 'Tis of Thee,” all joined in.

Father George said how appropriate it was for an ecumenical concert to be held the beginning night of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Continuing his reflection on Christian unity, he also said, "Jesus doesn't take sides, he takes over."

Robin Prinz, VIC facilitator, welcomed everybody by saying, "Our hands clap, our feet tap and our hearts are uplifted. This [concert] is VIC's gift to Mount Vernon."

SHE SPOKE ABOUT some of the programs VIC supports: UCM; New Hope Housing, and Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services. She said that it also sponsors a sunrise service and ecumenical Bible studies.

Prinz spoke of Martin Luther King Jr.'s words, saying "There's an element of goodness found in the worst enemy, there's some good in the worst of us, and some bad in the best of us, and hate grows out of fear, pride, hate, ignorance and misunderstanding."

The remainder of the evening belonged to the 14 other choirs whose voices blended in varying crescendos as they sang a host of songs. Included in that list were choirs from Belle View Baptist Church; Bethlehem Baptist Church; Good Shepherd Catholic Church; Groveton Baptist Church; Heritage Presbyterian Church; Metropolitan Washington Baha Chorale; Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church; Rising Hope United Methodist Mission; St. Aiden's Episcopal Church; St. James’ Episcopal Church; St. Luke's Episcopal Church; Wesley United Methodist Church; and Woodlawn United Methodist Church.

Stealing the show were the 40-plus children from Washington Mill Elementary School. Led by Marlene Flemming-Dillon, they gave a rousing rendition of “Sing, Sing, Everybody Sing” and “Oh Child.”

Pam Beggan was in the audience, and before the concert Beggan mentioned how lucky they were to have Flemming-Dillon lead a gospel music workshop during the annual Expanding our Horizons workshop sponsored by VIC and Good Shepherd Catholic Church. Beggan has come to the concert every year and said, "It's exciting for me because I know so many of the people. The music is thrilling."