Mary Gibbs has spent the last 40 years praising God through song. The choir president at First Baptist Church in Brunswick has participated in countless performances over the years, but one has always been particularly special for her — the church’s annual Patriotic Celebration.
The concert honors every branch of the military, giving thanks for each through song. This year, the program will return at 10:30 a.m. Sunday during the morning worship service.
For her part, Gibbs can’t wait.
“It’s a wonderful way to show our patriotism for our nation,” she said. “It’s special because it honors every branch of the military.”
And Gibbs is not the only one who feels that way. Each year, church members as well as guests from throughout the community find their way to First Baptist’s sanctuary to listen to the program.
More than 60 musicians and church members will participate in the service. Other patriotic music and inspiring videos will be shared during the celebration. The Rev. Larry Wilbur, associate pastor of FBC Brunswick will deliver the message. It is free and open to the public.
For Mark Clay, music minister, the patriotic program has become a standard of the church’s calendar, paving the way for Independence Day next week.
“First Baptist Church has had a long history of providing music concerts and programs celebrating the Christian heritage of our nation,” he said.
“Since I began serving as the minister of music in 2009, we began what is entitled ‘The Patriotic Celebration’ which is presented annually the Sunday prior to July 4.”
One of the highlights within the program is a piece titled “Salute to the Armed Forces.” Clay says this is a musical arrangement which includes songs from each branch of the military.
As the song is sung, any present or former service personnel from that branch will be invited to stand and be recognized.
“What is especially significant to this part of the Patriotic Celebration is that there will be service members who will appear in full dress uniforms from their branch of the military,” he said.
“It is a very moving experience to see these heroes among us be honored for their service to our nation.”
It is also a way for the community to express gratitude for the freedoms that are enjoyed in America today and to thank God for blessing on the country nation.
“For some in our congregation, this service is one of the highlights of the year,” Clay said. “It is especially meaningful to those who have served or who have a family member who have served in the Armed Forces.”
“It is a time to recognize and offer gratitude to those who have protected the freedoms we enjoy in America. For Christians, this gratitude extends further, when gratefulness is able to be given to those who have fought for the rights we have in America to worship God freely.”
Creating a program that celebrated this freedom through music is important for the Rev. Chris Winford, church pastor as well as choir member. While he will be in Israel during this particular performance, he understands fully how praising God in song can buoy spirituality.
He points to biblical passages as proof. Winford notes that the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah said God “rejoices over us with gladness and he exalts over us with loud singing.”
“Music within the church, whether it be traditional (piano and organ) or contemporary or southern gospel, is important because it gives voice to our belief system. An entire book of the Bible, Psalms, is literally a song book,” he said.
“There are countless references in Scripture encouraging men, women, and families to lift up their voice in praise to the King of Kings. Although the style of music changes within the church, the message of the songs must always point to our Creator and not ourselves.”