Unification News for June 1999

God’s Trombones at Manhattan Family Church

by Denneze Nelson—New York, NY

Let’s have church! On April 18, one week before the Liberation Ceremony with Dae Mo Nim, the Manhattan Family Church experienced an unusual Sunday service. It began with the spirited singing of "Amazing Grace" and "Sweet Wind," followed by a brief talk by Rev. Fong about bringing more quality to Sunday service and improving the choir. He then introduced the program for the day, not knowing exactly what to expect—and the best was yet to come. We would have "church" that morning. The choir and band took their positions on stage to present "Excerpts from God’s Trombones." God’s Trombones is a collection of seven inspirational sermons of the "old Negro preachers" set down as poetry. Ladies with beautiful clothing and hats (which almost stole the show) and stately-dressed gentlemen all graced the stage. And the show began.

The performance of God’s Trombones was spirit-filled. It began with the traditional spiritual, "Old-Time Religion," flowing into the soul-clenching prayer of Nicki Nseka, who exhorted us to praise Jesus, Aboji and Omoni. There was more to come. It was "church in church" and the audience loved it. Rousing and sensitive, introspective music filled the church. The spirit of God could be felt, and the subsequent sermons—"The Creation" and "The Prodigal Son"—preached in the old Negro style by Leslie de Jonge and Steve Baker—really touched the hearts of performers and audience alike. Both Leslie and Steve have been trained in the art of elocution.

At the end of a great dramatic rendition of "The Creation," soloist Denneze Nelson brought tears to many eyes with her performance of "By a Deep Wide River." Written by Barbara Burrowes van Praag, it is a moving song which expresses God’s heart at the time of creation. It was sung with great sensitivity. The role of the prodigal son was played with great maturity by Justin Fong, who shows great potential in the field of dramatics. Steve Baker’s eloquent voice was just right for the sermon of "The Prodigal Son." He and other members of the cast brought to reality this 2,000-year-old story of forgiveness.

Choir Director Robert Hall lavished the congregation with a variety of singing styles and professionalism with his zealous singing, conducting and all-round involvement. The choir singing was extravagantly spirited, heartwarming, enriching and delectable. Every choir member was quite engaging and each gave his or her best. I daresay that the audience was the most beautiful. They cheered vigorously, they laughed heartily, sang soulfully, and cried deeply. Also, the Blessed children were not to be left out, so they were on stage singing, "That’s good, my Lord, that’s good," representing the angelic world praising God after His creation.

The presentation of God’s Trombones was the brainchild of Robert Hall, who wanted to do something special for Easter and Springtime as an offering to Heavenly Father and a blessing to all our hearts. Robert, who began his vocal training with his spiritual mother—soprano, lirico-spinto Barbara Burrowes van Praag—has continued his training under prominent musicians and singers in the USA. He also performs with one of the leading college choruses in Manhattan. He brought to this performance of Trombones a very fresh outlook so apt for this time and age, and he succeeded in inspiring the performers. He continues to work at training interest people to sing for the glory of God and give joy to others. And what do you know? Whenever he is available, Dr. Tyler Hendricks—our national president—performs with the band, which includes the greatly talented musicians Masaya Tateishi, Masahiko Harigae and Alberto Faccon.

We are surely in the time of a great outpouring of God’s spirit and the influence of Dae Mo Nim and our ancestors could have been felt. Robert reported being awakened several times and receiving inspirations for the show. Nicki felt her ancestors before the performance, and those who witnessed Trombones cannot deny the outpouring that day.

Proceeds from this performance will finance proper attire and equipment for the choir and band. Robert divulged that other popular productions and other "excerpts" would soon be in motion. I urge you not to let them pass you by when the time comes. This is a special kind of providence in Manhattan Family Church. Then what’s the best outcome here? The young people love it, God is in charge and we can bring better results in our attendance to True Parents.

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