Gerald Wolfe Hymn Sing a night of hearty worship, remembering the past and being challenged to ministry
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
COLD SPRING, Ky. — It’s not often that I can’t describe something I have witnessed or experienced.
More than 30 years sitting behind keyboards and telling stories will do that, you know. There’s not much I haven’t seen, haven’t heard or haven’t written about. That covers just about all ends of the spectrum.
And I can assure you there’s not much that takes my breath away anymore.
Friday night, I attended the Gerald Wolfe Gospel Music Hymn Sing at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring. I’m still breathing, but was almost speechless when things ended a little after 9 p.m.
My heart was beating very strongly, pumping joy through my veins. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the Holy Spirit was flowing through my body. I’m really not sure how to describe it.
What I am sure of is that I could exhaust my vocabulary and still not do justice to what my wife and I experienced with our first Hymn Sing. It’s an experience every Christian should have.
And every Christian should have it often.
“Absolutely!” gospel music veteran Jim Brady said a few minutes after the combination concert and worship experience. “Every person needs to be at one of these. As a Christian, you are reminded of the truths of God’s Word. And if you have never given your heart to the Lord, it’s an amazing blessing and eye-opening experience.”
For a little over 150 minutes, we sang hymns. Yes, there were a few segments of some of the big names in Southern Gospel singing a few hits, but most of the time, a socially-distanced crowd of 400 people sang. Hands raised toward the sky and tears trickled down sheets in acknowledging God’s goodness.
It was simply heartfelt worship.
During the night, I jotted down 18 different hymns, but might have missed a few as I was caught up in worship like which I had not been a part of in years.
The concept was simple: Southern Gospel Hall of Famer Gerald Wolfe leads the singing with the fervor of an old-time evangelist. He’s backed up by a band headed by renowned pianist Trey Ivey and acclaimed organist Sandy Payton and a choir of some of gospel music’s top names.
At the Cold Spring stop, Wolfe was joined by Greater Vision, the trio he founded, the Mark Trammell Quartet, the Mylon Hayes Family and Jim & Melissa Brady. All became part of the “Songs of Thanksgiving” tour to promote corporate worship.
“This started in 2013 or 2014,” Jim Brady remembered. “The first video was in 2014, but this all started in Gerald’s heart and mind. I was part of the first one, but Gerald, really it was his concept. I think he was on a cruise or another multi-date event somewhere and it just happened. People started requesting hymns out of the audience. Then he went to Shipshewana, Indiana, and the second half of the program, he just took requests. He said the audience called the program.
“As soon as he played these hymns on the piano, people began to sing like he had never heard them sing in years. God put it on Gerald’s heart to preserve the hymns because a lot of people are not singing the hymns anymore. That’s how the whole thing got started.”
The impact is real. At Cold Spring, much of the audience consisted of Baby Boomers or older, but there were significant numbers of younger worshipers as well. All came together as one Friday.
“People love to sing and especially sing together,” Stephen Adair, tenor for the Mark Trammell Quartet, said. “When you hear other people singing around you, it does something to you to make you want to sing more. We don’t have enough of that now.”
That’s not a criticism and Brady noted the power of music to convey a message. “That’s why it is so important. Not if it’s a new song or an old song,” he said. “If the theology is strong, we will sing it. People might not remember the message or sermon they heard last week but they can remember the song they learned as a kid because the music and the lyric together is a powerful, magical thing.”
The son of an evangelist, Brady loves being able to share the songs he learned growing up. “A lot of the songs you heard tonight, I have known ever since I can remember.”
I mentioned the chorus, “Thank You, Lord” as one I had sung over and over as a kid then in working church camp over 30 years ago. “Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul! Thank you, Lord, for making me whole!” Brady smiled. “We did that song in children’s church. Before I knew how to spell my name, I knew that song. These songs are just precious and great reminders of the blessings of the Lord.”
While Brady has been with the Hymn Sing from the outset, Adair is one of the newbies. He’s been traveling with Mark Trammell for slightly over a year and is on his third tour. But in a short time, he’s seen what happens when people get together to just worship.
“People sing what they believe,” Adair said. “That’s why these songs have lasted over time. Some of them have lasted for hundreds of years. It thrills my soul to see (crowds singing). You have an interesting perspective when you are sitting on the platform and being able to see everybody in the crowd sing. It energizes us. We want to take this to as many people as we can.”
Not long after launching the Hymn Sing tour, Wolfe began serving nursing homes with Operation Sing Again. The idea is to provide Hymn Sing DVDs to 24-hour, full-time care facilities throughout America. So far, The Gospel Music Hymn Sing Foundation has provided 15,640 facilities with DVDs to assist patients with worship.
“It’s an amazing thing God is using to put these songs in the minds of people that already know these songs but reminds them of growing up in the church and they are not alone.”
It’s a ministry that has ministered to countless saints who are now unable to worship as they had done for years every time their churches met.
Adair recalled a ministry he was part of during his 14 years of leading a church music program in Indiana. Part of the ministry was providing worship services for a local nursing home on Sunday afternoons. “It was wonderful,” he remembered. “We did all of the old songs. This was what (the patients) grew up on. It gave them a chance to sing again. It brings back life to their mind.”
It’s real ministry that has emerged from a simple concept.
And it’s in keeping with the entire Hymn Sing Tour is about: Simply giving God the glory.
As I made the two-hour drive to Cold Spring Friday night, I really didn’t know what to expect. Now I do. I just can’t fully express what an amazing worship experience it was.
Thank you Jim & Melissa Brady. Thank you Greater Vision. Thank you Mark Trammell Quartet. Thank you Mylon Hayes Family.
Thank you First Baptist for hosting. Thank you Gerald Wolfe for understanding a simple concept could make an enormous blessing.
And most of all, “Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank you, Lord, for giving to me thy great salvation so rich and free.”
For more information on the Gerald Wolfe Hymn Sing Tour or the Gospel Music Hymn Sing Foundation, see Gospel Music Hymn Sing on Facebook or GospelMusicHymnSing.com.