By Richard Rourk
First Baptist Church of Erwin Youth Group wants to spread the message of community harmony by calling on local musicians to take part in an upcoming musical event.
The First Baptist youth group will host an Open Mic Night at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16.
Anyone interested in participating in Open Mic Night is asked to pick up music from Evangeline Hurter or at the church office Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The church is located on the corner of Main and Love Streets in downtown Erwin.
“We believe this is a great thing for the youth of Unicoi County for several reasons,” said Chasity Strawser, First Baptist Interim Minister to Students.
The Open Mic Night is the first of many new additions to the youth ministry lineup at FBCE.
“We value what our kids have to offer to our church and community, so naturally student-led worship is the next step,” Strawser said. “About a month ago in one of our Wednesday evening gatherings we were watching a praise band, Elevation Worship, and one of the students mentioned that they would love to go to a concert like that some day.”
Strawser said that the comment stuck with her for days.
“So I started looking at concerts coming to the area and found one in Asheville that would be perfect for them,” she said.
That band, which is named For King and Country, consists of brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone.
During that same conversation about concerts several other youth group members expressed their connection to worshiping God through music.
“Thus the plan to create a student led praise band started,” Strawser said.
Strawser has already gathered a base of talented musicians to organize this project.
“We have a few students that are already playing during Sunday morning worship hour and are doing a phenomenal job,” Strawser said. “They are the epitome of what we are praying for as student leaders. Christine Holley plays the flute alongside her sister, Elisabeth, and mother, Christy, every Sunday morning. Mary Catherine Holley and Nancy Diaz play in the adult hand bell choir.
Strawser also pointed out that sixth grader Edith Christensen led church children and the congregation in “This Little Light of Mine” while playing her ukulele during a recent Sunday service.
“You can watch her on our YouTube page, by clicking Morning Worship-February 27, 2022,” she added. “Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button while you are there.”
Once Strawser saw the depth of the talent in her congregation, she reached out to a few of the biggest names in youth music in the region.
“I started brainstorming and decided that the obvious thing to do would be to reach out to the high school band director for direction,” Strawser said. “Mrs. Hurter is surrounded daily with talented student musicians and vocalists.”
Strawser emailed Hurter, explaining her idea and desire to work with her.
“We met after school and went over the idea and she said she would mention this to her students to see if anyone would be interested,” Strawser said. “After our conversation I shared the information with our Minister of Worship, Preston Holley, and he suggested an open mic night so the interested students could showcase their individual talents.”
Strawser sees the importance in serving through music.
“First and most importantly, we want to help them grow closer to the Lord through using their spiritual gift of music and singing,” Strawser said. “This is our deepest desire as a church and youth group; that we worship God with our talents.”
She noted that some students may not have an outlet to express themselves musically other than in the classroom, so events like Open Mic Night are giving them the opportunity to do just that.
“A community worshiping God together can only strengthen and grow God’s kingdom,” Strawser added.
For those who are unable to attend the March 16 Open Mic Night, more events are in the works.
“Throughout the next few months as we get closer to our 200 year celebration in June, First Baptist will be showcasing musical concerts each month,” Strawser said.
March will feature a performance by pianist/organist Sherry Hendrix.
In addition, FBCE youth group will continue this series with open mic nights led by Unicoi County’s very own student musicians.
“We invite the community to come and worship alongside these students as they use their gifts for the Lord,” Strawser said.