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The Rev. Roger Perry, left, with his acoustic guitar, and his wife, the Rev. Joye Perry, with her “dog house” bass, are part of the “Down Home Praise” bluegrass band at Christ United Methodist Church in East Moline. The church is hosting Bluegrass Gospel Services every Saturday evening through August. The husband and wife team also are pastors at the church.

EAST MOLINE — Gospel music, bluegrass style, can be heard every Saturday evening through August at Christ United Methodist Church in East Moline.

Fisherman’s Holler is the featured group at 5 p.m. today, Saturday, June 8, at the church at 3801 7th St., East Moline. The Bluegrass Gospel Services on Saturday evenings will feature a different group each Saturday through Aug. 31.

The Rev. Joye Perry, the church pastor, said:, “There’s absolutely no need to get ‘dressed up’ for church. Just come casual and enjoy the music. This might be a great way to enjoy your Saturday night. Come to the bluegrass gospel event, and then head out to dinner with friends.”

The Bluegrass Gospel Services began at a recent Saturday evening worship service when Christ United Methodist Church musicians were playing and singing traditional gospel tunes but also music that had been written by church members Josie DeWitt and Darryl Damitz.

DeWitt, a member of the worship team at CUMC, suggested it would be a blessing to the East Moline church to invite outside bluegrass bands to play at the Saturday night services.

DeWitt is a musician and vocalist with the bluegrass group Fisherman’s Holler, the group to be featured this evening, Saturday, at the church.

“We are blessed that she has many connections with the bluegrass musicians in the area, so with her knowledge and willingness to get on the phone and invite other groups, we will have seven different bluegrass bands coming to perform and share the gospel through their music on specific Saturday nights,” Perry said.

“Lots of folks from CUMC came out to support our first night effort, and some were heard to speak, ‘that was a lot of fun’,” she said. “Fun and music and church ... hmmm, a winning combination.”

Each Saturday evening service will include the CUMC bluegrass band, “Down Home Praise,” in addition to the guest bluegrass band.

Perry says there is always an invitation to sing or clap along with the bands as they perform, “but if you just want to sit back and soak up the melodies and the gospel message they share, please do. Each evening will also include a mini-message, sharing scripture and inspirational words of hope and encouragement.”

Bluegrass music is not new to the Perry couple. Several years ago when she served as pastor at a United Methodist Church in Gifford, she was introduced to what she called “cowboy” church.

”I had no idea what that meant, but every member of the church seemed impressed with the concept and the response that they had received with visitors attending their evening service. On the first night that it was scheduled to happen after I began my duties as the local pastor, I showed up and my mouth dropped open when I turned the corner to go down the street where the church was located — cars were parked everywhere. The country western music had drawn quite a crowd from the surrounding towns and people loved ‘church’ that focused on country music that spoke the gospel of Jesus Christ in the lyrics.”

“Roger (her husband) and I have never forgotten that experience,” she said.

Her husband now has a passion for bluegrass music, his wife said, and she said he plays often with anyone in the area that wants to play. He plays mandolin, Appalachian dulcimer, acoustic guitar and banjo. Along with other members of the church, who enjoy bluegrass music, he sponsors a ‘bluegrass jam’ from 1 to 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month at the church.

He travels to communities outside the Quad-Cities on other weekends to play bluegrass music in open forum groups.

It is that passion and love for bluegrass music that led the Rev. Roger Perry, with the help of other musicians in the church, to plan Saturday night worship services for the summer months with bluegrass music being the worship music style.

Joye Perry referred to the Book of Psalms in the Bible and said: “In the very middle of the Bible, there is a book called ‘Psalms.' It actually is five books of songs under the one heading — 50 songs with their lyrics written for us to ‘hear’ in our hearts and minds as we read. I don’t think that it is just a coincidence that this book is in the middle of the Bible. For in every heart and core of our spiritual being, music plays an important part of our sense of God’s presence in our lives. There are song lyrics written there that share great praise and joy, but there are also song lyrics that speak anguish, heartache and doubt. Every emotion is found in Psalms, expressed in honesty to a God who listens.”

“Bluegrass gospel music can speak faith, trust, love and hope, and it also can speak about how hard life can be and our need for God’s presence in all of life, Perry said.

The Bluegrass Gospel Worship services will continue through August on Saturday nights and the groups to be featured through July 20 are:

  •   June 8 – Fisherman’s Holler.
  •   June 15 – Highway 99.
  •   June 22 – Down Home Praise.
  •   June 29 – Quarter Moon Tin Snips.
  •   July 6 – Front Porch Pickers.
  •   July 13 – Owl Creek Collective.
  •   July 20 – Annie Savage and the Savage Hearts.
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