Heritage Chapel celebrates state bicentennial

Published 2:13 pm Monday, April 8, 2019

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

It was a day of celebration at Chestnut Creek Heritage Chapel on April 6.

Chapel board member Ola Taylor said the day was celebrating the 200th anniversary of Alabama becoming a state as well as the community and good weather.

The celebration included music from the Verbena High School Band, Verbena United Methodist Choir and the Unity of Verbena.

Unity of Verbena is a combined youth and adult choir with members from churches throughout the region.

Chestnut Creek Heritage Chapel received a grant from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission to cover the cost of hosting the event, making it free to the public.

“One of our goals in this celebration was to bring in young people, so we will begin with a wonderful group of young people — the Verbena High School band,” Taylor said.

Under the direction of Randi Simpson, the band played the National Anthem, “The Hey Song,” “Rockin’ Along” and a Power Rock medley.

“It is our pleasure to come and participate in the community event today,” Simpson said.

She said it was a good opportunity for the students to take their talents beyond the school and show “young people can do things that are worthwhile.”

Verbena UMC took the audience on a musical journey through the ages with four songs, starting with the Latin Dona Nobis Pacem (God Grant Us Peace) and ending with the modern “I’m Just Here to Worship.”

Pastor Barbara Brewi of VUMC introduced the songs and pianist James McGalliard.

“James will be going to the University of Alabama to play music, but not only that he has been accepted into the very prestigious composition program,” Brewi said. “They only let in seven or less people a year.”

The Unity of Verbena Choir, under the direction of Shemekia Cooper, sang two upbeat worship songs “Free Worshipper” and “Call the Name of Jesus.”

Cooper said the choir started when she wanted to give youth an opportunity to sing together “because I knew they had that talent.”

“Later on, there was a women’s conference that was going on in one of our participating churches,” Cooper said. “They asked me to be over a women’s combined choir, and I did just that. So today, you are getting a combination of the two.”

Churches represented were from as close as Verbena to as far away as Pine Apple.

The two choirs came from different musical backgrounds. While the Verbena choir had sheet music, the Unity choir did not. Cooper said the songs for the Unity choir were usually chosen by songs they liked on the radio and thought they could sing.

However, both choirs came together for two traditional songs — “Down to the River to Pray” and “Ride on King Jesus.”

“We have had a lot of fun,” Brewi said of the combined choir.

Brewi said “Down to the River to Pray” was chosen in honor of the painting of a baptism in a river displayed in the chapel.

Each choir adapted a bit to the style of the other.

“When we got the sheet music (for ‘Down to the River to Pray’), I was looking and I was like, ‘I can’t follow this,’” Cooper said. “… We all just adjusted, and that’s how it is going to be in the Kingdom, just all of us together, just working together and having a great time.”

“Ride on King Jesus” is a traditional African spiritual.

Brewi said they learned this song without music or accompaniment.

“We had a great director,” Brewi said of Cooper.

The celebration ended with the audience joining in on Amazing Grace.

“We are doing this in a very appropriate place,” Taylor said. “The building you are in was completed about 1925 about the same time Verbena School was built. It was the home of one of the oldest churches in our county.”

After adding to the original structure, the church built a larger building across the street in 2000. The building was empty for a while until a group of cousins came together in an effort to form a nonprofit and preserve the building, which had fallen into disrepair.

“What do you do with a building when it is in disrepair and your momma says ‘That building cannot be torn down,’” Chestnut Creek Heritage Chapel president Denise Scarbrough said. “Well what I did was say, ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ and I began working with many other wonderful people who felt the same way as my mother.”

Preservation efforts are ongoing. The next project for the group is reinforcing the steeple to keep the ceiling from sinking. Some work is also needed under the building.

For information on making a donation, email Info@ChestnutCreekHeritageChapel.com. All donations are tax deductible.