Central Missouri was treated to a new type of worship service Saturday night in Rocheport.
Broadway Christian Church and Rocheport Christian Church put on the first edition of Sabbath Jazz inside Rocheport Christian’s 168-year-old brick walls.
“God’s love always comes to us in novel forms,” said Tim Carson, Senior Minister at Broadway Christian Church, in the opening prayer.
The church boasts three old wooden fans, American and Christian flags and three old paintings – two of the church in its finer days and one of Jesus sitting right behind the pulpit.
But no matter how many sermons those floorboards had heard, they hadn’t heard anything like what they were treated to on Saturday.
At exactly 5 p.m., Tom Andes and Dave Johnson struck up “Shine Jesus, Shine” on the piano and bass.
Next came the Louisiana jazz version of “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” with Johnson thumping on bass, and then an-up tempo “Amazing Grace,” with more piano runs and trills than what usually accompanies the old hymn.
“Welcome to Sabbath Jazz – it just has a wonderful ring,” singer Terry Overfelt said.
Sabbath Jazz will be held on the third Saturday of every month. It was meant to follow the precedent of a bluegrass service that has been held the first Saturday of the month at Rocheport Christian for the past two years. Broadway Christian provides the musicians and preaching for both services, and it was their idea to add a jazz service.
“I wonder if we should add another style to the palate,” Carson said as he described the thought process his church went through. “We’ll just take it out for a spin and see what the response is.”
The response was 86 people packing into the oldest church west of Appalachia – a church with 10 active members.
“It’s cool that this little church in this little river town on a Saturday night can have 86 people, because these little river towns and these little churches are shrinking to nothing,” Carson said.
Most of those in attendance came from outside of Rocheport.
“You’ve heard of destination weddings,” Carson said. “Well, this is like a destination worship service.”
Mickey Havener, pastor of Rocheport Christian Church, thinks between 20 and 25 people at the service on Saturday were Rocheport locals, partially due to a community newsletter that she sends out.
The newsletter comes from Havener’s journalism background at MU and her problem-solving mentality. The problem in Rocheport, as it seemed to Havener, was that there wasn't much information about what was going on, besides what appeared in the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Havener’s newsletter brought attention to events such as local’s night at a restaurant and a small July 4th parade, as well as to the music-oriented services that her church hosted.
“Our purpose is to build community,” Havener said. “Whether they come to church or not, we want to show them that God loves them.”
Lois Connor, an active member of the church, appreciated the new service and plans to show up every third Saturday of the month.
“This is my home,” Connor said. “The older religious songs made me think of my mother who has passed away.”
For the musicians, who are used to playing at Murry's Restaurant in Columbia, the service was an opportunity for a shift in style.
“It’s fun to do something spiritual for a change – the Ellington thing,” Johnson said. Jazz legend Duke Ellington was known for his spiritual jazz.
As a pastor, Carson felt the music that preceded him influenced him as he preached.
“The vibe, the style, the feeling and the emotions are different,” Carson said. “There is kind of a freedom because jazz is a very freeing music.”
Arms swayed during “Amazing Grace,” Havener smiled throughout the night, and one man started dancing the during the finale of “Oh, When the Saints.”
“People were very involved,” Carson said. “They were with it.”
Carson hopes people will stay “with it” when the Lily Tan Jazz Trio takes on the music duties for the service starting in March.