Health & Medicine

Small church pulls it together

Having a small Catholic church hosting a nationally recognized glee club on Palm Sunday in Lexington isn't as mind-boggling as it might seem.

You just have to know the right people.

The Spelman College Glee Club, directed by Kevin ­Johnson, will perform here on March 16, sponsored by St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, the smallest Catholic church in Fayette County.

The plan to bring the club to Lexington began last summer when members of St. Peter Claver attended the National Black Catholic Congress in Buffalo, N.Y., and were spellbound by the work of Johnson, who was directing music for the event.

While talking with the Lexingtonians, Johnson ­realized he had been here.

James Weathers, St. Peter Claver's parish life director, said Johnson recalled coming to Lexington as a teenager on an outreach mission trip ­organized by the Rev. Augustus Taylor, a former member of St. Peter Claver.

Johnson ”did work around here, and he remembered that,“ Weathers said. ”He introduced us to his wife and she remembered, too.“ Johnson's wife also had been with that team of youth.

After that realization, church members asked Johnson to conduct an ecumenical music workshop at the church, which he did in October. He then said that the glee club was going on tour and that its last performance was March 15 in Chicago. Would St. Peter Claver like to have the group sing here on its way back to Atlanta?

Of course the church would, Weathers said. But it would have to iron out a few wrinkles.

First, it had to find a way to house 44 tired young women, feed 44 hungry young women and provide space enough for 44 talented young women to strut their stuff.

”We have 20-some members in our choir, and we are crowded on Sundays,“ Weathers said. ”Talk about doubling that, and we had to start looking at different locations.“

That was not easy.

The date of the performance would be Palm Sunday, a spiritually significant day on the Christian calendar that would have many churches holding their own services. St. Peter Claver didn't have enough money to rent a larger place and take care of the young women as well, so it thought briefly of giving up.

But the congregation is like the little engine that could.

Members called around to churches, remembering this time how successful First Baptist, Bracktown had been in hosting the choir from Kentucky State University. The church was receptive and agreed to open its doors for St. Peter Claver.

”Everything there is perfect,“ Weathers said. ”The layout and everything.

”It seats 1,000 people, and that would be God's blessing if we could fill that. We just want to give the community something it can enjoy.“

Any profits from the concert will be split with the club, Weathers said. St. Peter Claver's share will go to its building fund. The congregation is trying to raise $2 million for a new building.

The new church would sit where the church is now, in the middle of a depressed area of Lexington. The church hosts a medical clinic, Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and a clothing bank, and it makes sandwiches for the Hope Center.

”It was a tough decision to stay,“ Weathers said. ”But we have a connection to the community, and if we moved out we would lose that connection.“

Donations to the building fund are greatly appreciated, said the Rev. Norman Fischer, pastor. ”It takes a village to raise the money, but this little church already has the spirit,“ he said.

When my daughter ­attended Spelman College in the 1990s, she was a member of a choir. We dragged the boys to ­Nashville once for a concert. I asked my daughter whether she had been a member of the glee club.

No, she said. She had been a member of the New Life Inspirational Gospel Choir, not the more famous glee club.

”Mom, you have to ­actually be able to sing to be in that choir,“ she said.

Mark your calendars and get a ticket or two. It should be well worth it.