Church choirs combine for ecumenical musical

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2001

This Sunday, on Father's Day, members from more than 45 Kenai Peninsula churches will gather to experience the love of their heavenly Father.

Worshipers of all denominations are invited to attend the afternoon musical, "Experiencing God."

"It is going to be one of the most fabulous worship experiences. God's presence is going to be there," said Janine Espy, director of Love INC, a clearinghouse for needs that matches individuals with community volunteers.

"The purpose of the afternoon is to bring our church community together and recommit ourselves to serving the Lord," said Dan Thornton, pastor at Peninsula Grace Brethren in Soldotna.

"Experiencing God" focuses on the major themes of the Bible, many of which revolve around neighborly love. Not only do the words of the musical promote togetherness, but the project itself has brought dozens of peninsula churches together. The project has allowed the community and especially the churches to work together in the same regard despite differing beliefs, said Espy.

"Our desire is to have our community unite in a worship event. This musical really brings people together. It is really a unifying kind of musical with a lot of different styles that touches everyone," said Carmen Franchino, the worship director at Peninsula Grace Brethren.

"Experiencing God" is an adaptation of a Bible study of the same name written by Henry Blackaby 12 years ago. The text, written to help students know and do the will of God, was changed and set to music by Gary Rhodes and Claire Cloninger.

"It brings your experience with God from a knowledge level to a personal relationship," Franchino said.

Espy and Thorton predict a crowd of at least 3,000 people will gather under the covered ice rink in Kenai to begin or cultivate their personal relationship with God through music.

The show is predominantly choral, although there are a few speaking parts, and in the middle of the 1 1/2-hour show, an image of Henry Blackaby will be projected onto a screen for a 10-minute challenge to the audience to find a personal relationship with God.

Dr. Gary Bonner of California, an internationally recognized conductor with 41 years of experience in Christian music, will lead the choir of more than 75 voices.

"It has been a God-sized task. It isn't something that any one church could have done," Espy said. "I am really looking forward to God's presence."

For those who wish to participate in the musical, registrations are still being accepted. There will be a mass rehearsal at 7 tonight with Bonner at Kenai Fellowship Church on the Kenai Spur Highway.

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