First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green

Community, campus voices to harmonize in performance of John Rutter’s Requiem

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News Joshua Dufford doesn’t know where he’ll be next year. Next weekend he’ll graduate with a masters in choral conducting. For the past year, in addition to his studies and duties as a chorale assistant on campus, he’s served as choir director at First Presbyterian Church. Come September he’d love to be back in the classroom, and that means there’s a good chance he won’t be at the Bowling Green church. Before he departs, though, Dufford wants to make one more musical memory for the congregation and choir. On Sunday, May 12, at 5 p.m., Dufford will conduct an ensemble of more than 50 singers and instrumentalists in a performance of John  Rutter’s Requiem. The free performance, which will be about 45 minutes long, will be in the church at 126 South Church St. “I tend to create projects just for fun,” Dufford said. “I enjoy organizing them because I know there’s a desire for community members to sing.” The requiem fits the bill. “Rutter’s Requiem is both beautiful and accessible, so it’s within reach of a community chorus. It can be put together more easily than others because a lot of people have sung the Requiem. It’s well known and well liked, and cherished.” The popular British composer completed it in 1985, and dedicated it  to his father who had died the previous year. Not quite half of the singers have performed the piece before, Dufford said. This is his first time  performing the Requiem either as a singer or a conductor. He has done other Rutter works and the First Presbyterian Choir has sung one section of the Requiem, the setting of “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” Dufford said the Requiem has been done at the church in the past. Dufford felt he could do it with the choir at First Presbyterian including the handful of choral scholars from the university who sing with them, but he wanted to reach out to others to join. That fits with the church’s mission of engaging the community. He recruited additional voices from the ranks of the Toledo Choral Society, where he is assistant conductor, the University Choral Society at BGSU, and from his fellow musicians on campus. The soprano soloist is Leah Tracy, a sophomore music major. The 50-voice chorus will be accompanied by a chamber ensemble of flute, oboe, cello, harp, organ, and timpani….


Migrant workers thanked for laboring in local fields

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Local migrant workers came in from the pickle fields Sunday so local residents could assure them their toiling in the fields is appreciated. Nearly 90 migrant workers and their children were treated to food, given clothing, and exchanged stories with members of First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green. The annual event, at a Wood County farm, is a time for sharing a meal and stories. “People were really appreciative of everything,” said Beatriz Maya, who translated for those workers speaking Spanish. “Many pointed out that they don’t feel welcome where they work,” Maya said. “It’s extremely important for them to see that in spite of the national rhetoric, the local communities are very appreciative of farm workers. It’s so important for the families to feel appreciated.” Members of the church brought many boxes of clothing for the men, women and children, plus shoes, towels and sheets. “They were waiting when we got there,” church member Debbie Zappitelli said. “They were so excited to pick up the items.” Members of the Brown Bag Food Project also attended, bringing food for each family. And Wood County District Public Library provided books for the children and adults. Church members brought games, soccer balls, cornhole sets, and a giant parachute. “It was like they had an evening to play,” Zappitelli said. The number of migrants attending this year was estimated at 90. “The families all came together,” she said. “The need was twice the need of prior years.” Long tables were set up for migrant families and church members to join in a meal of donated pizza and doughnuts. “They were so gracious, so grateful,” Zappitelli said. “We wanted to thank them for the harvest and all the hard work they do.” The migrant workers came from the U.S, Mexico and Guatemala. Many will leave Wood County soon to head to Michigan where they will pick apples, then back south to harvest tomatoes, grapefruit and oranges. After the meal, some of the migrant workers told their stories. Maya interpreted for those who did not speak English. “Everyone who spoke said no one had done anything like this for them,” Zappitelli said. She was particularly touched by an older gentleman who dressed up for the event, and talked about his life. “It was good to do, because they don’t feel welcome. They don’t feel comfortable here,” she…


Debate over afterlife puts church through hell in “The Christians”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Clearly Presbyterians don’t believe in bad karma. Otherwise the pastors and board of the First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green would have thought thrice about hosting a production of “The Christians,” a drama about a church being ripped apart. The church lived up to its declaration on its sign outside as a welcoming congregation, and welcomed Broken Spectacle Productions into its sanctuary. Luke Hnath’s 2015 play “The Christians” is being presented Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. in the church’s sanctuary. Tickets at the door are $20 and $15 for students. Tickets in advance are $15. Visit brokenspectacle.com. That’s a fortuitous setting for the play. After a small choir (William Cagle, Beth Felerski, and Lorna Patterson) directed by pianist Connor Long has offered a couple hymns, the pastor, Paul (Jim Trumm) steps out and greets the congregation. Given the stage is a sanctuary a moment of confusion ensues – is this a service or a performance? Trumm’s Paul is a warm, reassuring figure, glib but not quite unctuous. He’s certainly proud of what he’s built. As he details in the opening lines of his sermon, he built this church from a handful of worshippers in a storefront into a congregation of thousands with a church that has a bookstore, coffee shop and parking lot big enough to get lost in. This Sunday is one of celebration, he tells the congregation, because the mortgage on the church has finally been paid off. And the Sunday is notable as well because he is announcing a dramatic change in theology – he no longer believes in hell. Paul arrived at this epiphany not on the road to Damascus, but in a bathroom in an Orlando hotel. At a conference he heard a missionary lament that a boy, who burned to death in the process of saving his younger sister, would not go to heaven because he was not a Christian, not saved. Paul says that is incompatible with a loving God. “We are no longer that kind of church.” Trumm’s Paul announces this with joy and certainty. The audience – or is it a congregation? – would do well not to be so mesmerized by Paul’s preaching that they neglect to watch the others on the dais. The actors – Eric Batts as the associate pastor Joshua, Jim Dachik as the elder Jay, and Libby Dachik as Paul’s…


Broken Spectacle troupe brings “The Christians” to First Presbyterian

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Broken Spectacle Productions has staged plays in a bar, a lounge that served as a hookah lounge, and an empty storefront with one electrical outlet. The troupe makes it work. The company is peripatetic by design. Making it work is part Broken Spectacle’s mission statement. As Jonathan Chambers, who launched the theater company in 2014 with his wife Sara Lipinski Chambers, explains “It’s always about the plays and the spaces.” “We identify projects we want to do, then find spaces that are suitable,” he said. Chambers said Sara Chambers is always ordering and reading new plays. Last summer they came across “The Christians” by Lucas Hnath. He read it and knew immediately it was a play they should produce. “It ticks a lot of our boxes for us. It’s a new play that’s dealing with issues we’re interested in.” “The Christians,” which is structured around a sermon, “treats the issue of faith and people of faith with integrity, so it’s not making fun of belief,” he said. “In some respects the play is an argument that’s very old. If God is all loving, how can he send people to hell?” Chambers said they also realized “this is not a bar show.” Broken Spectacle will stage “The Christians” at First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green, Thursday, Jan. 12 and Friday Jan 13 at 7 p.m. Tickets at the door are $20 and $15 for students. Tickets in advance are $15. Visit brokenspectacle.com. Knowing they wanted to stage the play set in a church in a church, they approached First Presbyterian. Chambers said they knew the church was a welcoming congregation, and its involvement in community projects such as Not In Our Town made it an attractive collaborator. Also First Presbyterian is the home congregation of cast members Jim and Libby Dachik, so they brokered the conversation with the pastors, Gary and Mary Jane Saunders. The response was enthusiastic, but the proposal had to be approved by others in the church as well. The main issue was the use of the sanctuary itself. The strength of the script and its approach to faith helped win approval. Church board members were uncomfortable with the sale of tickets at first, though they went along after the producers explained that there are inherent costs in staging a play. They did not want tickets sold in the sanctuary itself, so…


Community lifts voices in First Presbyterian “Messiah” sing-along

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The season’s first snowstorm couldn’t stop music lovers from gathering Sunday to sing-along to holiday music for the ages. A sing-along performance of G. F. Handel’s “Messiah” drew a few dozen to the First Presbyterian Church to listen and sing-along on the choruses. They were joined by the church’s chancel choir, soloists, organ and an 11-piece orchestra. Inside they all found the warmth of the festive atmosphere, and beloved strains of music. As musicologist Christopher Williams, who was singing in the choir, noted in his introductory remarks, “Messiah” is associated with both the Christmas and Easter season. That means its strains, especially the climatic “Hallelujah” chorus, are familiar both to listeners and to singers. The sing-along is intended to bring those two groups together in a spirit of harmony and in literal harmony. The Rev. Gary Saunders, the church’s co-pastor, said that the event fit well into the church’s belief in fostering community and creativity. Josh Wang, the church’s choir director, credited co-pastor Mary Jane Saunders with first suggesting the church stage the performance. She had attended such performances in the past and felt it would work in Bowling Green. Wang, in his first year in his position, was already contemplating a program for the Christmas season, and this fit the bill. “It’s so popular, really beloved music,” he said. So many people have sung it and having them sing the choruses “makes it a more meaningful experience for everyone.” Also, the sing-along makes the event more casual than the usual concert presentation. Not that the soloists, choir and orchestra were casual about preparation. “It was wonderful to be part of something this big,” said Nancy Hess, a member of choir. She enjoyed the challenge of preparing the music. “Obviously we strive for accuracy, and as good a performance as we can,” Wang said. The performance included almost all of the oratorio’s first section, and “The Trumpet Will Sound” and the “Hallelujah” chorus from the final section. Among the soloists was professional singer Diane McEwen-Martin, whose families has long ties to the church. “I was baptized here.” She sang the mezzo-soprano solos. She has performed “Messiah” before, but not all that many times. She explained that she started her career as a mezzo-soprano before shifting up the vocal register to soprano. Her voice, she said is not suited to the high florid soprano lines…


Pastors Mary Jane and Gary Saunders honored for working to make BG better for everyone

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News On receiving the I Love BG Award with his wife, Pastor Mary Jane Saunders, Pastor Gary Saunders sounded what could have been the keynote for the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s Mid-Year Meeting and Awards Program. “We’re better together,” he said. And that in one way or another was a message that came through in all the award presentations. Fitting for the award that she and her husband were receiving, Pastor Mary Jane Saunders said that when they first moved to Bowling Green to  assume the pulpit at First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, they “immediately fell in love with the community and wanted to become involved.” “We were called by a church dedicated to justice and inclusion,” she said.  “This church has been supportive, not just supportive but encouraging. It’s because of First Presbyterian that we’ve been able to be active.” Sheilah Crowley, last year’s I Love BG award winner, detailed that involvement in her introduction. They have been leaders in the BG Ministerial Association, the campaign to stop the repeal of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, Not In Our Town, the city’s Human Relations Commission, the interfaith breakfast and the Presbytery of Maumee Valley. Gary Saunders said that guiding “our life journey together” has been a belief that “diversity is an opportunity not a problem.” “To the extent we can grasp that and live it out, we can all step forward together,” he said. After the luncheon, held at Nazareth Hall in Grand Rapids, Mary Jane Saunders said it was the people who made the couple fall in love with Bowling Green. “There are people who share a vision of wanting the community to be better for everybody, and they’re willing to work for it, not just talk about it.” Not In Our Town embodies that. “It’s a grassroots thing,” Gary Saunders said.  It bubbled up both on campus and in the community.  “It’s a vehicle to gather together and express what our best self is. That’s what Not In Our Town is all about.” NIOT prompts community discussions of “the important issues we really need to talk about. Sometimes issues are tragic events, or issues swirling about like Black Lives Matter and Islamophobia. We need a place to talk about it. We have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.” The Chamber also awarded its Outstanding Customer Service Award to…