Wesley Ringers Director
Mary says she, "feels closest to God when she’s singing." This is apparent in the way Mary Kepple lives her life and teaches, not only children, but all of us. For Mary, music has always connected her to God and to others.
Starting her twenty-eighth year at Gay Street United Methodist Church, she has led our Children’s and Hand Bell “Music Ministry” since she, John, Sarah, and Carrie started attending services here. When the position of children’s choir director became available in 1980, Louise Grubb talked to Bob Hendrickson (Music Director at the time) and asked him to talk to Mary about the position. Soon after, Mary was hired, and as they say, "The rest is history" --- the joyous history of our current Rainbow Singers (four-year-olds thru first graders), Sunbeam Choir (second thru fifth graders), and Wesley Ringers (adult hand bell choir). Mary is still indebted to Louise Grubb, Carol Navin, and Barb Young for helping her recruit and organize that first year. Until seven years ago, Mary also directed the middle school and high school hand bell choirs and vocal choirs. For twenty years, she led seven music ministries at our church.
Mary must "dream" leading children and adults in music. She also teaches music at Wiggin Street and East Elementary Schools. When she does have time to herself (seldom of course), she enjoys reading, gardening, knitting, and sewing. Just a few years ago, she and Cathy Yarman started the Piece Corps. This group creates and designs banners and paraments (cloths on the altar, pulpit, and lectern), and has made beautiful pieces for our worship services.
Mary is totally committed to helping children know that God loves them, and helps them learn to experience faith through music. She believes a core of songs is important for the children to know and be able to hold in their hearts through life. Some of the special, well-known ones that she teaches them are: "This is My Father’s World," "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus," "Jesus Loves Me," "Here I Am Lord," and "Hymn of Promise." When choosing children’s anthems, she picks ones that speak to the children; ones that are not just repetitive words, but are age-appropriate, both musically and theologically, for God’s children. You may notice that they have shared such anthems as "Come As A Child" and "Jesus Wants Me As I Am," numerous times. These have become songs and words the children can "own" and will surely recall throughout their life.
Weekly rehearsals are planned to include developing head voice, musical skills (rhythmic, melodic, harmony), and to flow from familiar through the new and conclude with prayer, prayer requests, prayers, and a prayer song. The children in our choirs learn a comfort zone in the church by learning the musical portions of our services too. At practice, they become familiar with "Gloria Patri," "Doxology," and The Lord’s Prayer. They learn how to be in worship and learn familiarity of many hymns. They are taught that when they share their music on Sunday mornings, they are in "ministry" and "leading worship," not performing.
Mary’s dream for the Music Ministry of Our Church Family is to continue to offer the best worship we can, and continue to have a ministry that offers our best to God --- the only way we can faithfully be in worship.
Mary was raised in the Methodist Church, where her grandparents and parents participated regularly, and made an effort to always observe the Sunday Sabbath. One of Mary’s very favorite hymns is "It Is Well with My Soul." When you see Mary participating in worship --- singing in the Chancel Choir, leading "her" children in ministry; or speak to her, it is clear that it is through a strong faith and Christ-like spirit that, through all of life, Mary will be able to sing, "It Is Well with My Soul."
~Respectfully submitted by Colleen Hicks