Prison choir celebrates first anniversary

| 22/10/2008

(CNS): On Saturday, 17 May, the Voices of Hope (VOH) gospel choir at HMP Northward hosted a concert for fellow inmates. According to a release from HM Prison Services, the occasion was to celebrate and give God the glory for the one-year anniversary of the choir. The program included special items by fellow inmates from Northward and Fairbanks and two special items from visiting guests.

Songs included “Why me, Lord?”, “God on the Mountain”, “My God is Real”, “Just a little talk with Jesus”, “Men of Faith”, “Jesus hold my hand” and many other favorites.

The VOH choir commenced on 15 May 2007, under the direction of volunteer Cathy Gomez and was the result of a request from inmate Dwight Plummer to form a quartet. The first practice resulted in 16 inmates attending, and so a choir was born! Over the period of the year 28 inmates have participated in the choir, with 7 members being released and 8 of the original members remaining. Currently the number of choir members remains at 16. The choir meets twice per week and is accompanied by Gomez on the keyboards along with experienced and enthusiastic drummer Dave Whittaker. On occasion, guest bass guitarists or keyboard players have participated at special events.

During the concert, Gomez provided a short reflection of the events of the past year, including the fact that the first practice was without music! Nevertheless, she acknowledged at that early stage that the sound the choir produced was simply awesome. Since that time the ministry to others has been very rewarding and a blessing to all who participate and all who come to listen. The members have been faithful, many times attending practice when they are tired from work or even feeling ill.

Over the past year, the VOH choir acquired uniforms consisting of black pants and light blue shirts with the VOH cross logo in colors of red and gold. They have presented a Christmas and Easter Cantata to fellow inmates and staff of Northward, Fairbanks and Eagle House, participated in a Christmas concert, and sang at a number of church services at Northward. The concerts have been uplifting and well received by all.

Small tokens of appreciation were presented to all choir members, in addition to five members receiving special recognition for attendance, including two for perfect attendance.

Several visitors attended the concert from various church groups. Brother Courtney Perrin of the Savannah Seventh Day Adventist Church, attended choir performances on many occasions prior, and had this to say: “Heartiest congratulations to Cathy Gomez and the Voices of Hope Choir on their first anniversary as a choir. It is a blessing to see men interested in something like this. I believe this is a ministry that has manifold blessings. First, coming together to engage in something that is so positive is in itself therapeutic. Taking time out to consistently attend rehearsals, show commitment to a cause. Then there is the fellowship and interaction of the choir, coupled with the positive messages they bring. This has been truly a blessing. Once again, congratulations Ms Cathy, and may God continue to bless the ministry of The Voices of Hope.”

Rev. Dr Dave Hazle from Elmslie Memorial United Church commented, “I was most inspired by the experience of attending a performance of the Voices of Hope Choir on Saturday, 17 May 2008. It was pleasing to hear these inmates singing Christian songs, both traditional and contemporary. The enthusiasm and effort was evident and I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. The concert experience has given me hope for the future of these men, and visions of an unprecedented move of God that would bring many of them to faith in Christ. Congratulations to the hard working choir director Cathy Gomez and to all the members of the choir.”

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