A Jamaican revival hymn fest, Vermont-style.
The rockin’ Neil Diamond spiritual “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” was one of our family favorites growing up. Wailing vocals, varying tempo and volume, a “good gospel beat”, social inclusion, drama and religiosity- what’s not to like? Fitting, then, that my parents accompanied my daughter and me to the 30th annual Jamaican Hymn Sing at the Shoreham Congregational Church last Sunday night.
The event is a really wonderful spectacle, at least by Addison County standards. It’s a packed house of Vermonters and Jamaicans where all free-will donations go to benefit the home churches of the Jamaican men who come here every fall to work in the apple orchards at harvest time. (You can read more about them here.)
It’s an unrehearsed concert, heart-felt and spiritual, with the congregation joining in whenever we heard a song we knew. For me, there were three: This Little Light of Mine, Jesus Loves the Little Children, and When the Saints Go Marching In. That last one got the whole crowd up on its feet as the singers marched down the aisles shaking hands with anyone and everyone. The event lasted roughly a hour, building in energy with each medley and soaking the two song-leaders in sweat by the end. The lighting was less than ideal and no one stood still for long, but I managed to make a few images.
The main elements of Jamaican hymns evident that evening were volume, repetition, and praise. And praise Jesus they did! The four of us left feeling slightly overwhelmed, hard of hearing, and grateful to have shared a night of singing and faith with our community and our friends.