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Time seems to stand still at Ringgold hymn sing

August 30, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

RINGGOLD -- It was one of those rare moments in time when time seemed to stand still. And there were 123 witnesses to the phenomenon Sunday evening at the historic Ringgold Meeting House.

"It is so nice to have a place like this where the walls sing back to you," said Ronald L. Miller, veteran song leader and choir director who led the assembled voices a cappella in a series of classic hymns suggested by those who attended the 37th annual hymn sing.

From the first hymn, "O For A Thousand Tongues," it was as if the singers had been practicing together for weeks. Baritones, tenors, sopranos and a few basses came in right where they should have with little direction from Miller.

That is exactly why Ron Kaiser of Chambersburg, Pa., came Sunday evening to the 138-year-old building on Misty Meadow Road.

"I so enjoy four-part harmony," Kaiser said. "I miss it in my own church."

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A member of New Guilford Brethren in Christ Church in Chambersburg, Kaiser left a family reunion early Sunday so he wouldn't miss the hymn sing he has attended for the past four years.

Chet and Rachel Sollenberger and Nelson and Elsie Ebersole drove an hour and a half to Ringgold from Lebanon County, Pa.

The Sollenbergers had been to the meeting house before, so they were introducing it to their friends. But the hymn sing was new to all of them.

The assembled crowd had to share hymnals on loan from two churches.

One woman said she remembers when the hymn sing was held outside the building. But Sunday night's cool, breezy weather made it comfortable in the meeting house, which has no air conditioning, no electricity and only the most modest of bathroom conveniences.

"You've come here to sing, so we are going to sing," said Frank Kipe Jr., welcoming all to the hourlong hymn sing.

Following the music, there were light refreshments and tours of the three-story building.

Kipe is one of several members of a commission of the Brethren in Christ Church that oversees the 1871 meeting house, which closed in the 1960s.

Back when regular services were halted, there was some talk of taking the building down and reassembling it at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., Kipe said.

But it was decided that the house should stay in the middle of the farming community where it was built. A timber frame encased in locally made bricks, it is 65 feet long and 40 feet wide.

The basement sometimes is used for carry-in meals. In early days, meals were cooked there, Kipe said. The attic had crude accommodations for people who slept there overnight during love feasts, which sometimes lasted a couple of days.

For more information, go to www.bicweb.org/ministries/ringgold.

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