Not that I would visit with Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, Shinto, or Druid groups. But a few websites later brought me to a conclusion. If I can’t sing or hear “Because He Lives” or “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Amazing Grace” in a worship service, I’m not going to be a happy church camper.
I’ll just stick with a gathering of believers in Christ, where we have something to sing about and voices, and instruments for some, to make music.
We’re admonished in Psalm 100 to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord … Come before His presence with singing.” It doesn’t specify that we sing alone, nor does it state that we sing together. But any person who is not tone deaf can attest to the delightful sound of voices raised in harmony, those four different notes coming together in the blending of “sacred harps,” those harps being the human vocal chords.
Decades ago, we referred to the person at church in charge of the music as the song leader, or chorister, or, as in the case of Woodstock’s Enon Baptists, “singing clerke.”
In an account from the business meeting minutes of October 1846, it is stated that a motion was made that “Brother A. T. Roberts be cited … to give an account for a report that is out against him for playing the fiddle.”
As was customary at the time, a committee was appointed to investigate the matter. At the next conference, it was “moved and carried that the case of Brother Roberts be dismissed off the church book,” and in true unpredictable Baptist fashion, in the same meeting, the congregation voted Brother Roberts to serve as “singing clerke.”
Perhaps someone decided it was better to abide by the admonition, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Musical talent should always be shared.
One hundred and twenty years later, times had changed at that church. It was no longer Enon. The building and congregation had moved to town, leaving behind only those members who were buried in the churchyard.
It was Woodstock Baptist Church, and the “singing clerke” position had become a paid, part-time, Choir Director position, filled in February 1966 by Fred Schlosser.
Fred was employed full time by the Cobb County School System as a band director at Wheeler High School. You would think he would have his fill of teenagers after five full days a week, plus football halftimes and other assorted duties.
But he soon absorbed into the church music program an active and enthusiastic youth choir in addition to adult and junior choirs, and in addition to leading congregational singing. He was what they call today the Worship Leader.
He seemed to thrive on music and young people. During the next few years, alongside Pastor Dan Parker and Dan’s pianist wife, Jean, Fred directed youth musicals annually, arranging for tours including trips to Florida, Washington, D.C., and many churches in surrounding areas.
The youth, as well as adults and children, loved him and respected him as a leader and friend. He would remain at Woodstock First Baptist until December 1974.
Just last week we learned of Fred’s death in August. He had retired from his “real” job in 1987 and moved back to Alabama where he was born October 11, 1933.
He would return to Woodstock occasionally for a wedding or funeral. It seemed we couldn’t quite let him go. We needed to hear his voice during those special times in our lives. During the last few years, there would be the annual Christmas note, and last year he had written, “Our health problems keep us from traveling much … I guess ‘infirm’ pretty well sums us up. Actually I never thought I would be starting my 80th year. … We still miss our friends from Woodstock and would love to see you.”
He almost made it to his 80th birthday. It’s comforting to know that Heaven’s choir includes that wonderful voice now.
I remember the first time I heard him sing “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.”
Afterwards I told him how much I enjoyed it, and he said that was good news.
He noticed some folks were crying, so he thought it must have been very bad! That’s just one Fred story. There must be hundreds more.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.