CLAYTON — It may be labeled “old school” or “throw back,” but the worship arts program at Salem Church of God relies on components that many churches shelved years ago.
While guitar-driven bands and vocal teams are the praise and worship staples of many 21st century churches, Salem continues to feature an orchestra and choir on most Sundays, offering a blended approach to music that stretches in style from contemporary to traditional.
“Salem has a rich history of music woven into its fabric,” said David Boots, Salem’s worship arts pastor. “Thus, there is much musical talent among the people. Not only do choir and orchestra provide an outlet for vocalists and musicians – amateur and professional – but an opportunity for them to use their talent as an offering of worship.”
The Salem orchestra and choir will have featured roles when the church hosts indentical Easter services at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., which will include the launch of a new sermon series, “Unbelievable,” by Lead Pastor Steve Southards. Childcare will be available for ages 3 and younger for both services as well as activities for nursery, preschool and elementary children.
The Salem congregation has existed for 120 years, and the orchestra and choir have long been areas of ministry for members.
Richard and Carolyn Guittar, who live in Pleasant Hill and drive 18 miles each way to Salem, have been choir members for 34 years.
“We believe the choir serves as worship leaders,” said Richard Guittar. Choirs set the tone for worship by the words they sing and the freedom they express while worshiping. Some in the congregation may be freed to worship in new ways as they see it lived out from the choir.”
Meanwhile, Rise Labig, a Greenville resident who plays flute, drives 32 miles each way on Sundays.
“I love being part of the orchestra, because we all share the sounds from our instruments for God’s glory,” she said. “When we play, we are in our own form of worship, and we know that it flows to our congregation.”
Salem’s Holy Week events begin with Good Friday’s “Behold, the Cross” service at 7 p.m., which will be led by a praise band and vocal team. The service, which has grown into an annual community gathering, will include music, scripture, Communion and contemplation of the events that led to the Crucifixion of Christ. Childcare will not be provided, as youngsters are encouraged to sit with their families.
“We are exploring various mixes of instrumentation, from full orchestra to a small rhythm section, and from one or two vocalists to a full choir, all depending on the music selections and theme for a particular service,” Boots said. “There is a place for a variety of options at Salem.”
Be it choir, orchestra or various ensembles, music has been the connector to bring many into the Salem family over the years.
“The orchestra has been part of the Salem tradition, and one that many outside the church recognize as something special,” Labig said. “It is not unusual to hear visitors share how they were invited or became members because they first came to hear the orchestra and choir.”
Salem Church of God is at 6500 Southway Road in Clayton. For more information about Salem or the Holy Week schedule, please visit www.salemchurch.org or call 836-6500.