In His Name

Remembered by Carol "Mama" Grout

Many years ago, the minister at our Episcopal church asked my husband to be the advisor and Sunday School teacher for the high school students. This - to me - was a clear indication of the desperate depths to which organized religion had sunk. One Sunday morning several of the kids told John that they wanted to put on a folk mass. John's response: "What's a folk mass?"

The teenagers explained that it was the standard Episcopal service using specially written modern music and that instead of hymns popular songs were used. Although it all sounded a bit weird to John at first, he figured that anything legal and moral that would keep teenagers within the framework of the church was worth a try. "Can you get the music for the service?" he asked. The kids said they could.

The following Sunday one of the kids brought a stack of books of the music for the mass, saying he had gotten them from another church. John mistakenly presumed that the kid had borrowed the books but was later told by him, "God helps those who help themselves - so I just helped myself." John was appalled.

The most efficient communications system known to mankind is teenagers. The following Sunday evening when the kids met at the church for their first practice, much to our surprise kids from Episcopal churches from all over the area showed up to participate. We had a drummer, a pianist, a raft of guitarists, a bass player and about twenty-five singers. This musical menage was being directed by my husband, a man whose entire knowledge of music could be written on the head of a pin - in VERY large letters. I sat in the church that night as John told the kids that the Bible tells us to "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord" and that was exactly what it was at that first rehearsal - a joyous noise. But as the weeks rolled past, I noticed that those singers and musicians were becoming quite good. John led them with enthusiasm and no one seemed to notice that all he could really do was stand in front and direct by keeping the beat with his right hand.

We didn't just see these kids on Sunday evenings at folk mass practices. They began coming to our house on Friday and Saturday evenings where we suddenly became hosts for weekend teenage open houses. They played music or listened to it on tape players - they talked - they debated - they fell in and out of love - and they ate. Boy, did those kids eat. I quit giving money to the church and spent it on soft drinks and great quantities of junk food so dear to the hearts (and stomachs) of teenagers.

And our kids gave themselves a name since all musical groups must have one. They became "In His Name."

Finally, John felt they were ready and we scheduled our folk mass for the sparsely attended Sunday evening service at 6 p.m. Much to our amazement, the church was packed! Seated on the front row were two elderly ladies who were obviously quite offended to see teenage musicians set up below the altar and teenage singers fill the choir stalls. Despite the fact that I am legally classified as singing impaired, I sang with the "In His Name" choir and watched these two ladles throughout the service. Half-way through the service I noticed that those two old gals were clapping their hands and tapping their feet to the music like two enthusiastic blue-haired go-go dancers.

After the service, one of those elderly ladles came up to me and said, "We watched you and you seemed so proud. Which of the children are yours?" -- "All of 'em" I answered proudly without hesitation. "Every last one of 'em!"

The quizzical looks on their faces were magnificent to behold.

We had presumed we would perform that one folk mass and that would be it. Little could we envision that, in the years to follow, "In His Name" would perform at churches of many denominations throughout our state and a neighboring state, at public functions and would even be offered a recording contract. Their success can only be attributed to the kids' own musical talent and determination.

I became the group's unofficial scheduling agent while John continued as director, standing there in front keeping time with his right hand. And the "In His Name" members became "our kids."

Thanks to "our kids," John and I became the only people our ages to know the words to almost every popular song by the Beatles, Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan and other musicians of the day. For reasons we were never able to explain, this knowledge was not at all impressive to our contemporaries.

Thanks to our "In His Name" kids, our own two young sons acquired dozens and dozens of surrogate older brothers and sisters.

And thanks to our "In His Name" kids always being at our house on the weekends, one of our nosier neighbors concluded that we must surely be big time drug dealers!

Of the hundreds of services and performances "In His Name" did, the one service I remember best was an evening service at a Methodist Church. I received a call from a young woman whose husband had been killed a few days earlier in an automobile accident. There was to be a memorial service at their church and she wanted "In His Name" to do the music. Thinking she didn't understand, I explained that our kids did popular music, not standard hymns. "That's what I want," she said.

The kids came to the Methodist church that evening, not with their usual boisterous enthusiasm but with a somber dignity. I remember two of the songs we did that night: "Let It Be" and "All My Trials." John had instructed our kids to remain in the choir seating at the front of the church after the service until after everyone had left. The "In His Name" members sat in silence, watching as the bereaved family and their friends began to leave the church at the conclusion of the service.

Just then a small child emerged from the leaving crowd and came up the aisle toward us, a little boy who was the dead man's son. The child, fascinated by the guitars, touched one and smiled at the sound it made. Then he looked up at John and said, "You were singing for my Daddy, huh?" I looked at our kids, girls with tears streaming silently down their faces and burly teenage boys fighting back tears. John assured the child that we had indeed been singing for his father and then asked him if he would like us to sing for him too. The child smiled and nodded his head eagerly up and down.

The guitars were soft, the piano gentle and the voices tender as "In His Name" slowly played and sang "Day Is Done" --- "... And if you'll take my hand, my son, all will be well when the day is done ..."

It was "In His Name's" most beautiful performance.


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