“Ol’ Timey” Gospel Hymns

On a porch in Pensacola, North Carolina, David Green would play guitar and, along with neighbors and friends, sing “ol’ timey” Gospel hymns. Over the next ten years, the neighborhood gathering grew larger and the sing-a-long became a full-fledged community event in greater Burnsville. When David became the pastor of Grace Methodist in the shadow of Newfound Mountain, he brought his guitar, considerable talent, and a variety of lessons learned to a nearby community center in that rural valley.

Three Men and a Tub
Ol’ Timey Gospel Hymn Sing at Newfound Community Center featuring Three Men and a Tub. Pictured left to right are Sam Smathers, Pastor David Green, and Charles Ballew. – Photo by Bob Kalk

Pastor Green told us that one of those lessons learned underscores the value of holding these hymn sings in a neutral place. “The community center allows us to attract people who may not be inclined to cross denominational lines or others who may be reluctant to even enter a church.” He said.

According to those who regularly participate in the Friday evening events that also feature a potluck dinner, the number of area churches represented has now topped out at seventeen while it usually hovers at twelve to fifteen.

Charles Ballew and Sam Smathers joined David in leading the songs a little over a year ago according to the pastor. Charles plays a standup washtub bass of his own making. To change pitch he pulls a crank originally used to draw the shades in a chicken coop. His other hand is free to pluck the single string, that looks a lot like a clothesline, as the old metal washtub resonates, shapes, and amplifies the sound.

Sam plays the lead guitar parts while David plays mostly rhythm as he sings. Pastor Green says that Sam has a real talent for covering most of the pastor’s mistakes while weaving them into something beautiful. “You couldn’t ask for a better complement.” David says.

Judy McGargle regularly attends these first Friday of every month sessions. She says she enjoys the banter and the opportunity to sing the hymns she knew as a child and highlighted the interactive nature of the sessions saying “ I love how everyone participates.” Patty Reichstad agreed with that sentiment saying “These are the songs that we grew up with.” She continued “ I grew up in the Catholic Church where we would only sing the first and third verse. Here we sing all of them.” Speaking of those who join from all the different area churches she said “I was impressed by how good they sound together, it’s as if they practiced together.”

Francie Green, David’s wife, added this observation: “ Even though they come from fifteen different churches, they already know most of the songs. The song leader loves old hymns and just has this library in his head of beautiful old hymns, so . . .” When asked about how this event became so successful, she said that “David knew some people from church and the welcome table lunches in Leicester. We had a banner and we put up some flyers. People just started coming.”

Francie continued “We have a great variety of people that come and just worship the Lord. Where else can you go, on a Friday night, and sing praises to God. It just warms your heart. Doug May joined the conversation saying “The people in this little valley are just as friendly and welcoming as can be.” Doug has been participating in these events since they first started.

The event is held at 7:00 PM on the first Friday of every month at The Newfound Community Center.

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