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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | COUNTYWIDE / CAMARILLO

Hymn Festival Raises Voices as Well as Money

January 19, 1998|SCOTT STEEPLETON

Half a dozen church choirs from throughout Ventura County gathered Sunday afternoon to feed the soul with songs praising God, while at the same time raising money for the hungry.

Organizers said more than 300 people packed into Camarillo United Methodist Church for the hymn festival, which raised money to benefit Communities Reaching Out to People, a nonprofit group that provides disaster relief, education programs and refugee assistance worldwide.

The 90-minute event, which kicked off the National Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was an opportunity to listen and sing along to hymns and anthems both classic and modern.

"I just like the music," said M.J. Petrison, 68, of Oxnard. "I move to it."

Louise Bergmann, dean of the Ventura County chapter of the American Guild of Organists and emcee of the event, said several people were unable to attend because of the flu.

However, that did not dampen anyone's spirit. When applause erupted after Austin Lovelace's organ prelude featuring variations on "Holy, Holy, Holy" by English priest Reginald Heber, Bergmann playfully admonished one and all that the event was a worship service--there would be no applause.

"You did it once. That's it," Bergmann said, which was met with laughter from the church.

Among the modern hymns performed was "In Morning's Reviving Light" by Fritz Fritschel. The offertory "All Things Bright and Beautiful" was performed by the First Presbyterian Church of Oxnard's hand bell choir.

While some of the musical groups numbered more than 20 members, others were much leaner. Our Saviour's Lutheran Church of Oxnard sent all 12 of its choir members.

Mary Ann Fiene, pastor of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, said the joy of participating in the hymn festival was not to perform but the chance for the group to honor the Lord.

"I would not call this performing," Fiene said. "I would call it worship, praising God.

"That's why we're here--to praise God."

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