I won’t pretend to grasp the love and religion that is and revolves around Gospel. My relationship with God, if there be one, is lackluster at best. And very recently I have begun to question my own personal faith itself. I won’t elaborate on my reasons, but I will say that attending the Gospel Workshop performance couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

The Gospel workshop concert I attended was a combination of Muhlenberg students and faculty as well as the Allentown community.

In simple terms, it was beautiful.

The Gospel Choir, named Rejoice, sang in beautiful harmonies and cascading melody lines that flooded the chapel with pure-vocal sound. They used their voices to encourage the rest of the Chapel community to join them in their praises of God and life as a whole.

Eric Thompson, Senior Assistant Director of Admission as well as the Advisor/Director of Rejoice, was more than happy to share his thoughts and efforts in the process of planning the Gospel weekend.

“This tradition was started by the college’s former Dean of Students, Dean Karen Green, in the spring of 2007,” explained Thompson, “she wanted to develop a Gospel choir on campus and did a Gospel Workshop Weekend to encourage interest from the community. We’ve had an annual concert ever since.”

A Muhlenberg alumna, as well as a past Rejoice member, Thompson continued to elaborate on role of Gospel itself as well as its function on community life.

“I believe ‘Gospel’ has a religious, cultural, spiritual, and musical context,” said Thompson. “The sound of gospel music comes across to me as an ‘anointed’ sound- quite heavenly. Traditionally, African American slaves would sing the ‘news of the gospel,’ meaning teachings from the Bible about the goodness of Christ, the Lord and Savior. Their musical influences came from their African heritages and were usually devised of unique harmonies filled with soul and strength. Culturally, the music was/is used as a means of religious praise, church fellowship, and a longing for emancipation. This is one of the reasons why Gospel songs were utilized so often during the Civil Rights Movement.”

“As for Rejoice, Muhlenberg Gospel Choir, it is an ensemble where students can just come to enjoy sharing music with each other and their audience,” Thompson continues. “The E-board and myself work to create an inclusive space that offers an uplifting genre of music. Some students say that Gospel rehearsal is the highlight of their week. If the choir simply provided that one benefit to students, I feel like it is something worth doing then.”

As the Advisor/Director of the Gospel Choir, Thompson had to plan and coordinate the workshop weekend with other faculty members.

Thompson describes that “for the Workshop, along with fantastic help from the Chaplain’s Office, I planned and coordinated the logistics of the weekend. I was mostly involved with the rehearsal structure and musical components.”

Thompson also continued to describe the opportunity that Rejoice provides for the Muhlenberg community.

“Primarily I think it works towards the college’s commitment to diversity,” said Thompson. “There are many vocal ensembles and performance opportunities on campus, but the Gospel choir is unique [in] its repertoire and its goal to lift the spirits of others. “

Again, the production itself was marvelous. Every song was orchestrated and arranged to fill the chapel with wondrous sound and energy. In one piece, the audience was encouraged to stand, clap, and hug one another in praise of not only God but in humanity. The point was made that God made us in his image, and therefore, we all should treat each other with the same kindness and respect that we owe ourselves.

Now, I won’t pretend that I left with any answers or real revelations. None of my questions were answered. My relationship with God, or lack thereof has not changed. And in many ways I am still the same.

But I did walk away with a new faith. A faith in humanity.

In this time of anger, fear and despair it is very easy to give in and give up. But Rejoice encourages their audience to love again. To not only love God but also for one another—from friend, to sibling, to parent, to child—we cannot forget to have faith in each other. I was reminded of this and I am forever grateful.

Lauren Mazur, member of the class of 2019, serves as the co-editor of the Arts & Culture section. Now a Junior, she is a double major in English and Music as well as a part of the Pre-Law program.


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