Old-fashioned Hymnfest coming to Old Cahawba

Published 6:59 pm Sunday, September 10, 2023

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By  Christine Weerts

Special to The Selma Times-Journal

Favorite old hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” will fill the historic St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at Old Cahawba Archaeological Park on Sept. 24 at 4 p.m. All are invited to this free community sing-along, the first of its kind in the centuries-old church.

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“We are excited to invite the community to come together and sing hymns that have been sung for years in churches throughout rural Alabama,” said Christine Weerts, who is helping organize the event. “There will be so many favorites, from Fanny Crosby’s ‘Blessed Assurance,’ to Thomas Dorsey’s ‘Precious Lord, Take My hand,’ and many more hymns sung by a variety of church denominations through the years.”

Local musicians from Selma and Orrville will lead the singing, including choirs from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and First Baptist Church on Martin Luther King, representing the two church bodies that have worshiped in St. Luke’s through the years. Other musicians will lead hymns as well from a rich tradition of church hymnody.

“We also will include hymns like ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer,’ sung by the Union prisoners at the POW camp at Old Cahawba, as well as hymns from the local Methodist and AME church traditions that worshipped in the community for years,” Weerts said. “Community singing is good for improving health, building unity and reminding us of the greater good – a great way to come together after the devastation of the Jan.12 tornado.”

St. Luke’s, built in 1854, is located at the entrance to the park. The church, which was moved 15 miles to Martin’s Station in 1876, served Episcopal congregations until the early 1900 when it housed Azion Missionary Baptist Church. It was returned to Old Cahawba in 2007 through the efforts of several organizations  and is in the process of renovation.

Hymnfest 23 is free, hymnals will be provided, stories of hymn favorites shared and refreshments served. The event is sponsored by Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center of the Daniel Foundation, Old Cahawba, and the Alabama Historical Commission. 

Old Cahawba Archaeological  Park. 9518 Cahaba Road, lies at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers, about 15 miles west of Selma off of Alabama Highway 22. From 1819 to 1826, it served as Alabama’s first capital. Old Cahawba is a historic property of the Alabama Historical Commission.

To learn more, call 334-872-8058 or visit www.ahc.alabama.gov.