Making a joyful noise is part of Hartselle First United Methodist ministry
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Ladies and gentlemen gather in the chapel, pull up a seat by their neighbors, open their Heavenly Highway hymnals and join together to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
But no preaching follows. Not even one collection plate is passed. No robed choir stands behind the pulpit. There isn't even an altar call before the congregation is dismissed.
That's because this isn't a Sunday service at any local church–it's an old-fashioned songbook singing held each Wednesday morning for more than 30 years at Falkville Healthcare Center.
The piano accompanies residents' voices in "Hallelujah, We Shall Rise," and "Just a Little Talk with Jesus." A resident named Ollie wears a tie and smiles as he sings "Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot," and "So Glad I Got Religion" as solos.
There's no need for formality here, so residents take turns shouting out requests of lifelong favorites. They close their eyes and sing each verse of "Victory in Jesus" without even glancing at their worn hymnals.
The songs they've heard since childhood roll easily off the residents' tongues and, from the expressions of their faces, bring to mind times of tent revivals, church picnics, family gatherings, and maybe even sad times when they've sung these songs before.
The joy and memories that stir in this congregation of many faiths and denominations are brought each week by the songbook singing ministry of Hartselle First United Methodist Church.
There's clapping, toe-tapping, smiles and laughter as the lively song leader, Linda Guyton, moves swiftly through the chapel encouraging residents to sing along.
The residents gladly respond.
"Good singing!" she tells the congregation as "When They Ring Those Golden Bells" ends.
Deceased FUMC members Josephine Puckett and Bea Nelson began this ministry more than 30 years ago.
The current ministry includes 20 members from FUMC, as well as other area churches.
Falkville Healthcare caregivers said the enthusiasm for the gathering has never waned and residents pack the chapel each Wednesday morning to join together with their visitors in song.
FUMC member Mae Garner has been with the ministry since 1984–longer than any other current member.
"This is a good ministry," Garner said.
"I've seen some of the residents who can't even communicate come in here and sing right along."
And Guyton added that the residents aren't the only ones who sing along.
"The people who work here are so nice," Guyton said. "I see them walk by the chapel or stop inside just to sing a verse or two.
"They're so involved with what the residents are doing. I've told my family, when the time comes, this is where I want to be."
The time has come for the hour-long service to end and the hymnals are collected while the congregation continues to sing.
The service appropriately ends with "Help Somebody Today" and "God Be With You," because God is surely with these residents and their special weekly visitors and, whether they realize it fully or not, the ministry's songs have indeed helped somebody today.