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A Worship Service to Remember

St. Paul’s Chapel, one of the first buildings to be designated an official landmark by the city of New York, stands on the Columbia University campus at the top of a hill. Walking through Harlem for the first time to get there on a November Sabbath, I was enchanted by the time we reached the 1904 structure of stone and brick built in the Renaissance Revival style, it is as impressive on the inside as the out. (But it is not to be confused with the St. Paul’s Chapel vintage 1766 that stands near the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.)
It was at the Columbia University Chapel that Adventist graduate students gathered to worship in 1968, and where the Adventist Forum chapter they formed came into being. So it was only fitting for them to return to this site for a worship service on the 40th anniversary of the chapter’s founding. As Judy Rittenhouse, one of the original members, noted in her remembrances of times past, location, location, location made the services special.
A songfest started the service. Then there was a liturgy with Scriptural readings from Judges, 1 Thessalonians, and Matthew. In his homily Dr. Les Wright drew on these Scriptures to talk about God and His Plan for the future.
Soaring musical numbers made the anniversary event a worship service to remember. Baritone Ralph Candelaria’s gentle rendition of “Give Me Jesus” brought tears to my eyes. Soprano Faith Esham, who planned the service, sang “Bist de bei mir” by JS Bach, her glorious operatic voice soaring through the vaulted space. Glazunov’s violin “Meditation” played by Lynelle Smith and Liszt’s piano “Paysage” played by Russell Chin were punctuated by original poetry by Gina Rae Foster and a reading by Jan Anderson. Don Shortslef on the piano accompanied himself singing an original composition “It Could Have Been Me.” Then it was time for chapter history. After Ron Lawson shared stories from earlier days, one member reminded him of the time limitations in the chapel, and the music awaiting. Tenor Ronoldo Appleton performed a heart-rending version of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” To close the service all of the soloists plus more musicians from the audience formed a chorus to sing Brahms “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place.”
Lovely indeed was the place and the time together. Conversations, usually the centerpiece of Forum meetings, this time were reserved for the steps outside the chapel as people from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York greeted each other.
This Forum chapter has made worship a centerpiece of their time together. Visiting with them on this special occasion demonstrated the beauty and power of the worship experience.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum Magazine
For more on the history of the NY Adventist Forum click and select the ‘History’ link on the left-hand-side of the page.

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