Saturday, July 13, 2024

United Church celebrates Cheryl Campbell’s 50 years as choir director

Glen Hartle
Shawville Dec. 10, 2023
Shawville United Church will soon celebrate 200 years. For more than a quarter of that time, Cheryl Campbell has been with the choir at the church, first as a member and then, for the last 50 years, as director. She was honoured in a special musical celebration Sunday that saw the church doors thrown wide and the community invited in.
There are many ways to show gratitude and appreciation, and the Shawville United Church demonstrated that it leads by example, not only espousing the message of goodwill accorded to the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, but by also putting faith into action with a joyful celebration of humility and community in keeping with the best of verse and, certainly, the best of the season.
The congregation at the church usually consists of some 50 or 60 parishioners and, while not quite full, that number ballooned for this special celebration.
The overall service felt like a well-coordinated event. Ushers Dorothy and Em Morrison, Sandra Barber and Allan Dean were welcoming spirits at the doors, knew everyone who entered and were of great assistance to any and all. Once the congregation was seated, Reverend Schalk W. Naudé took his now familiar, and yet somewhat new, place at the altar and in the loft behind sat a large choir ready to provide backdrop against which the festivities were to unfold. The bright light of day streamed through stained glass windows providing thematic decor and an almost jubilant aura. Commemorative poinsettias were scattered throughout the sanctuary in memory of loved ones past. The scene was set.
The Reverend, newly at the church and of South African roots, ran a balanced service complete with scripture, self-deprecating humour, light stories intended as allegory for moral teachings, engagement with various members of the parish and well-timed to-and-fro with both the choir and the celebrant. From a layman’s perspective, theological positioning aside, he was a very good emcee.
There were a variety of tributes to Campbell and they, individually and collectively, highlighted in turn just what an impact she has had on both the church and the community at large.
Glenda Baker led things off by sharing words sent ahead by former minister of the church, Paula Mullin. “In the midst of an already busy life and teaching career, you made time all those years ago to be a part of our choir and we are so grateful,” Baker shared. She also spoke of the value of Campbell’s leadership, encouragement and willingness to share of herself, and of her impact beyond the church walls. “You were an active member of Pontiac Players, often as the leading lady, and I remember all of those times you directed children at the McDowell Elementary School and accompanied the children to choir competitions throughout the region.”
Joan Conrod shared tales of Shawville from when Campbell first came to town and through the years, Eleanor Hayes shared “best-friend” giggles and Basil Hodgins shared words offered ahead by Beth Armitage, who suggested she may be the only one left who remembers that fateful Tuesday evening when Campbell first came to choir practice. All lent merit to the growing acknowledgement of legacy being crafted.
Reverend Naudé held nothing back in his summary of Campbell’s impact. “You have woven celestial melodies bridging the earthly and the divine, creating a tapestry of unity that binds our community,” he said.
As a part of his delivery, he unveiled a new plaque to be placed on the walls of the sanctuary of the church. “May this serve as a perpetual reminder of Cheryl’s enduring influence – a hymn to her tireless devotion and the lives she has enriched through music,” he said.
Emblazoned on the plaque under her name and praise, are listed phrases from six passages in the Bible all highlighting the joy and the importance of music and song in faith and chosen by members of the choir.
For her part, Campbell was clearly moved by the show of affection, admiration and support. With specific call outs to various pews of the gathered, she summarized with, “Thank you for this wonderful gift of a musical celebration. My life has been enriched by the people I have had the privilege of working with at Shawville United Church and this is wonderful and overwhelming. Blessings and thanks to all of you for this tribute.”
Throughout the service, the choir, still directed by Campbell and accompanied by Vincent Mar, raised their voices to amazing heights. They sang several pieces already familiar to the gathered including Open Our Eyes Lord, A Candle is Burning (Away in a Manger) and The Lord’s Prayer. What truly brought the musical celebration to a pinnacle was the final blessing song, I Believe. Here, the entire cast of musical talent met on an inspired plane offering Campbell both tribute to, and evidence of, her legacy.
Following the service, the entire congregation was invited into the community hall at the back of the church for a potluck lunch hosted by the United Church Women. There, a robust atmosphere of joy was elevated higher with a feast of broad offerings from a team of cheery apron-sporting ladies. The hall was alive.
As if celebrating 50 years as choir director wasn’t enough, the day also represented an 80th birthday party for Campbell and, as such, the potluck lunch was followed with appropriate singing, cake, ice-cream and gifts.
In the annals of Shawville’s United Church, Cheryl Campbell will be remembered and she will be remembered well.