Caleb Koble and friends triggered two standing ovations, including from some people with tears in their eyes. So southern gospel group Redeemed’s appearance at the recent, monthly Open Mic Night at Columbus’ Mt. Pleasant Christian Union Church blossomed into more than an amplified success.
“You have really reached out and touched me tonight,” local singer Carla Royal said from the front row as people applauded. “And I know the God of heaven is smiling down on each of you right now.”
Truth be told, smiles spread all around among the 80 people, including many who had driven from Trafalgar, Martinsville, Bloomington and other areas an hour or more away to the simple-steepled, country-looking church in the midst of a residential stretch of Goeller Boulevard. Listeners and participants were Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Full Gospel, you name it. One group in bonnets and long dresses simply identified themselves as “followers of Jesus,” and got applause.
Apparently, hearts were as open as the microphone — an element that pleased rhythm guitarist, singer and harmonica player David Royal, Carla’s husband and a member of the church’s worship worship band, One Way Gospel 4.
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“We’re all just God’s people,” Royal said. “And we’re all here really for only one reason.”
No egos. No bravado. No look-at-me.
Just look to Jesus was the order of the evening where closed eyes and raised hands marked two-and-a-half hours of sometimes foot-stomping, floor-shaking praise and worship.
“We’re trying to build our numbers here,” said the Rev. Kevin Metz, the church pastor where about 25 people attend each Sunday. “And we figured this would be a good way to do it.”
What people built on the most recent third Friday of the month seemed to be a singular sense of unity. Amid old-style, traditional paintings of Jesus knocking on a door and another of him gently carrying a small lamb, people such as Indianapolis’ Rich Stevens performed serious tunes such as “Thirty Pieces of Silver,” but coupled the works with ample humor.
“I used to be a boxer,” Stevens said as part of a true story. “But I had to give it up. The referee kept stepping on my hands.”
Pastor Charlie Tingley of Paragon’s Whitaker Baptist Church borrowed a guitar and got up to sing a southern gospel classic, “Consider the Lillies,” before telling accompanying musicians, “I don’t want to offend anyone, but you’ll have to play softly with me. Because as I play and sing, I’ve got to be able to hear my wife (Joann).”
“Especially since she’s within striking distance,” cracked guitarist Bill McClain.
The event reigned as a spontaneous jam session and lovefest.
Early in the night, Carla Royal stepped to the stage to interrupt the proceedings to lead a happy birthday sing-along to a 92-year-old worshipper who then dipped her head, took tissues and dabbed at the emotion in her eyes.
Other support surfaced when an older gentleman stood to sing and found that his voice cracked just as he opened his song, he sheepishly stopped and apologized. But his audience would have none of his regret.
“Take your time, brother,” one man gently urged.
“Bless him, Lord!” said another as the vocalist then began again.
Open mic. Open hearts. Open encouragement.
After all, isn’t this church called Mt. Pleasant?
But amid the slow and emotional numbers, the proceedings also offered room for the high-energy, jazzy, boogie-woogie of artists such as pianist Phil Whitted of One Way Gospel (4).
“If I didn’t have that hope (of Jesus),” Whitted said, his voice breaking with emotion, “I’d sure be up here trying to find it tonight.”
The evening closed with an altar call with pastors lining the front area.
“Please do not leave this place with a burden on your heart,” Carla Royal told the crowd.
People bowed their head in prayer as Metz asked for God’s blessing on everyone — and upon a home-cooked meal that awaited in the downstairs fellowship hall. After all, he wants people to come and be filled — spiritually and literally.
Open mic. Open invitation.
What: Open Mic Night at Mount Pleasant Christian Union Church. Any individuals or groups are welcome to perform with a performance track, a capella or with worship band One Way Gospel 4.
Where: 4960 W. Goeller Boulevard in Columbus.
When: 6 p.m. April 17.