by Jerome Young
This article was originally published in PCJH’s Winter 2023 Pinnacle, “Seeing God in the Arts”
My family lived at and worked my grandpa’s farm in Wake County, North Carolina, about eight miles from Raleigh. My start in music goes back to Christmas Day 1957, when I was surprised with a cheap little six-string acoustic guitar with a lesson on tuning and a few melody ideas. This first lesson came from my dad’s cousin, Uncle Hexie, I called him. From there, I was off and running.
I couldn’t get enough of learning new tunes and played my short little fingers sore. I suppose most players go through different stages of interest in various players and styles of playing. Some of mine were the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy, The Beatles, and, later, Doc and Merle Watson. There have been a lot of good flatpicking guitarists and several five-string banjo players, mainly Earl Scruggs.
When I saw our first son being born, I accepted Jesus into my life and it wasn’t long before I was playing guitar in the Community Bible Church worship band. Pastor Don Handis’ brother Dean and I played with several different vocalists over the many years there.
Before I get ahead of myself, I should say that I met my wife Chris while I was working at the next ranch over from her parents’ place in Buffalo Valley (where we still live). I had moved to Wyoming from back East in 1975 and we got married in 1977.
Before Chris and I started attending PCJH we had been regulars at River Crossing (now Gateway) for 15 years. When pastor Mike Atkins moved back to North Carolina and River Crossing became Gateway, I stopped in at PCJH one Sunday morning in May 2018 for a looksee. I saw Kenny Hadden that morning and he knew that I played music and invited me to join in the following Sunday. I had always admired Kenny’s singing and his skill on his instruments, so this first experience was enjoyable for me.
I found that the music that was being played at PCJH was to my liking and something that I could play along with. I knew several people who were PCJH members and was welcomed by Ben and Tammy. I prefer more of an acoustic style of music for a worship service and there is a lot of music being done elsewhere that is too loud and electric-sounding for my taste. There’s room for all of it, but I connect with what’s being done at PCJH. There are so many good vocalists that have been or are actively participating here. My favorite thing to do is accompany singers with the guitar or mandolin. I have never felt that I have much talent for singing, but I feel some instrumental embellishment is a great addition to worship music. There have been times when the Spirit leads us to a place that leaves me with goosebumps and near tears. I think that is felt by others as well.
I play a lot of music in and around town and Fremont County with different players and, for me, the enjoyment of the music by the audience or congregation is what makes It worthwhile. We do get paid most of the time, but there are many places where we play for the listening pleasure of those shut in, in assisted living facilities, senior centers and museums.
I have had some problems with my hands over the years that crop up in playing music, but I think God has shown me ways to work around those issues. Sure, I have had several surgeries and a long series of Botox injections for focal dystonia and torn muscle tissue, but I feel blessed that I keep playing. There are people my age that are unable to continue because of arthritis or other issues. I feel blessed to continue to be a part of the music at our church.
Chris and I recently saw a movie in town called ‘After Death.’ The focus was on many people who had near death or actual death experiences and came back to life to tell their stories. They all had similar positive reflections of seeing dazzling light and incomparable music. So music has been a big part of worshipping our God since, even possibly, before King David’s era and will always be a part of how we express worship to our God. To my way of thinking, I should give it back to the one who gives it to us. I hope to be able to do this the rest of my life. Praise God!