by Pam Tinsley
Dave, David, and Al met eight years ago on a music team for an Episcopal Cursillo/Come and See retreat weekend. David was a vocalist and played rhythm guitar; Dave sang and played guitar, banjo, and mandolin; and Al played double bass. In addition to contemporary church music, they also shared a love of folk music and immediately began getting together to play – even though they worship at different Episcopal churches, and 35 miles separate two of them. Nadine, a fiddler and vocalist, joined them for a Come and See Prayer and Share gathering, and Just Plain Folk was born. The foursome practiced weekly, periodically played in coffee shops and farmer’s markets, and had just begun to play at some retirement communities, when the pandemic struck. Ever resourceful and committed to their passion, Just Plain Folk found ways to practice while vaxed, masked, and distanced.
Fast forward to today when the band plays regularly at retirement communities and in their memory care units. Dave describes their gigs as a ministry, a vocation – that is, the place where, in the words of Frederick Buechner, his deepest gladness meets the world’s needs. Whenever Dave picks up his mandolin, he prays that he might become a bearer of Christ’s light to brighten their hearts, if only for an hour. The result? Residents sing and dance along to tunes they know from their youth, and fellowship is nurtured, as band and audience share amusing stories from their lives.
Then, the band moves into the memory care unit. There Dave observes a powerful transformation. As they begin to play, it’s clear that their music reaches deep into the residents’ souls, awakening something beyond memory. Seeing the joy in their faces, in turn, brings great joy to the band members themselves, as a powerful reminder of Christ’s eternal truth: In giving we receive.
When the members of Just Plain Folk first started, they were mostly looking to play music together and to enjoy some Christian fellowship. Little did they realize that God had other plans for them, and Just Plain Folk has become Just Plain Ministry!