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Musical abundance: Small mountain church blessed with surplus of musical talent

By Jessica Connor

PICKENS — They usually don’t plan it. It’s just the way they do church. In fact, until just recently, they didn’t even have an organized choir.

But when the 65 or so members of Porter’s Chapel United Methodist Church gather for worship on Sunday mornings, they can count on one thing: There’s going to be lots and lots of musical praise for the Lord.

That’s because Porter s Chapel, a small church nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just happens to have a wealth of members who are musically oriented.

I estimate 90 percent of us are musical in one way or another,  said Paula Watt, church lay leader and music coordinator.

Whether they sing, play an instrument or simply worship best through music, the members embrace an expressive, praise-oriented service that lifts up their musical talents as love offerings to the Lord.

On any Sunday, visitors might experience violin, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboard, choir and solo singing, spontaneous humming and more, in just as many musical styles “ and sometimes all at once. Very few of the members are trained, and many of them don t even read music; they play by ear. Yet somehow, they produce a service rich with vibrant, high-quality sound.

God has blessed Porter s Chapel with an abundance of musical ability and talent,  summed up the Rev. Dick Waldrep, and the congregation uses that talent to praise God any way they can.

A lot of people are drawn here because there are so many musical talents, and there are a million styles, which is amazing, especially in a small church,  Watt said, noting the church enjoys contemporary praise, classical, jazz, Gospel, folk music and more, with both younger and older members participating.

Chuck Blowers, a bluegrass guitarist and vocalist, stumbled across Porter s Chapel about 20 years ago and has been there ever since. He had been seeking a church where he would feel comfortable. When he walked in that first Sunday, to his delight, he was greeted by the late Miss Frances Porter, who was playing piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, and I just knew, ˜I m home,  Blowers recalled.

Frank Clendening, church lay speaker who also leads the praise band, said other members feel just the same way. The church welcomes everyone regardless of talent or musical inclination. While they happen to have a lot of musical talent in one spot, they don t hear the wrong notes or if someone s voice is off-key one morning, and they don t judge each other.

It s not about us; it s about God,  Clendening said. We are praising and worshipping God, and He is the audience. ¦ If you don t have a great voice, God still wants you to sing for Him. It all sounds good to Him. 

Watt agrees: It s not about hitting the right notes, not about being perfect. It s just about making music for the Lord. 

Ironically, while their pastor loves music, Waldrep himself is not musically inclined.

I can t carry a tune with a bushel basket through the grocery store,  he quipped the Sunday the Advocate visited.

But he is passionate about encouraging his flock to embrace its talents and offer them to the Lord and to the community. And his flock couldn t agree more.

God has blessed us that way,  Clendening said. I couldn t imagine worship without it. 

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