Diverse Communities Come Together In Song
East Liberty’s Rodman Street Baptist Missionary Church, Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh, & Korean Student Volunteer Group Celebrate Music, Faith
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Pittsburgh, PA, August 2, 2016:
On the morning of July 31st, the Rodman Street Baptist Missionary Church in East Liberty was bursting with song, as three diverse communities came together to celebrate the intersection of music and faith. The Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church, affectionately known by neighbors as “The Street,” has been part of the East Liberty neighborhood for more than a century and includes a vibrant music ministry. The Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh is a South Side-based non-profit that provides permanent homes and services for people with intellectual disabilities. The Friends of Emmaus are a group of Korean high school students from Vincentian Academy, North Allegheny High School, and Fox Chapel High School who have formed a volunteer group to build friendships and support the residents of Emmaus. All of these groups came together on Sunday to share their gifts in a special Worship and Arts Celebration at the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church.
When the Rodman Street minister welcomed the guests on stage, Carl Doerr sat at the keyboard. Carl was not always a musician. He came to the Emmaus Non-Residential Program in hopes of learning some new skills and making new friends. Erhard Schrancz, an Emmaus Direct Support Professional who works with Carl, asked if he had any desire to learn a musical instrument, and Carl expressed an interest in the keyboard. Erhard found a keyboard for Carl and set out to find a way to teach Carl to read and play music in a way that fit his needs. Seeing Carl’s intellectual disability as a difference, not a barrier, Erhard developed a new kind of music, transcribing the notes of the songs into colorful shapes and applying matching labels to the keys. He then set out to teach Carl some of his favorite songs.
After practicing every day for four months, Carl has enjoyed several opportunities to perform for an audience. He first performed with the musicians from Rodman Street at an Emmaus Community Night in the South Side in the Spring, where the Praise & Worship Team performed for the Emmaus residents. Watching Music & Arts Director Alton Mitchell play the keyboard, Carl was motivated to work harder and expressed his desire to perform at Alton’s church. Alton welcomed the idea, and on July 31st, Carl was invited to play at Rodman Street’s Worship and Arts Celebration and was joined on stage by the congregation’s Praise & Worship team and a three-part string and clarinet ensemble from the Friends of Emmaus group, including Thomas Kim, Suhye Park, and Cuna Kim. Carl counted off for the musicians with his fingers, and the other musicians joined him as he played “Amazing Grace” and “How Much I Love Jesus” on his keyboard, with Erhard guiding him through the music. Afterward, he bowed, and the congregation stood to applaud the efforts of all the musicians.
Many were moved to tears by Carl’s determination and the support of the student volunteers. Afterward, Alton Mitchell, invited Carl and MiRan Surh, Emmaus’ Director of Community Relations, to speak about Emmaus. Carl thanked everyone for coming, and MiRan noted that the celebration exhibited much diversity, “including people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and abilities,” but that “in faith, we all become one.” Many individuals with intellectual disabilities whom Emmaus serves attended the celebration, and the Rodman Street church members welcomed their guests with open arms, encouraging everyone’s full participation in the service. There were many diverse communities and abilities present that day, and their shared faith and love of music brought them together for a truly unforgettable morning in East Liberty. As one congregant declared, “Amen!”