Beyond the Walls of Foundry

An Invitation to Sing
Greg McGruder

My Foundry story begins at the White House and it involves music. It was the year 2000, and President Bill Clinton's second term in office was coming to an end. I had four friends who were long-time attenders of the 9:30 service and who sang with Jubalate. Luckily, I lived just eight blocks up the street.

Anyone who's been in D.C. for a while knows from the media stories that during the month of December the White House is a magical place, decorated for Christmas like no other place in the country, and filled with almost endless rounds of tours and parties.

The Foundry Choir was asked to sing at the White House during one party, and my friends and the choir director Eileen Guenther were inviting anyone with appropriate black-tie apparel and a decent voice to join them. I'd never been inside the White House at Christmas—not even 20 years after moving to the city—so I was game. I started attending weekly rehearsals of carols and holiday music.

The night of our performance, the White House was, indeed, a place of magic. The President and First Lady warmly welcomed us, and all of us were especially thrilled when the President stepped into the tenor section and joined us in singing one song.

President Bill Clinton with Jubalate choir; 2000 

One of the most fascinating ways to examine a church and its members is through the choir, and during rehearsal, and since, I discovered a community of individuals who loved the church—and more often than not loved one another—and were fully welcoming to gays and lesbians as well as a full spectrum of races, cultures, and nationalities.

I discovered a group of people who were clear in their understanding that the church community did not stop at the church walls, and that it was also important to serve the city and also the larger the world.

I discovered a group of people who gave generously of their time and financial support to make everything that is Foundry possible.

I discovered inspiring sermons that stimulated the mind and spirit.

But what impressed me the most was that this was a community of people who had full social and professional lives in addition to their active roles in the church. These were people who knew that questioning the Bible would not result in any negative consequences. These were people who had for years been vocal in their support of same-sex marriage. These were people who felt that after choir rehearsal or any other church meeting that, of course, you were going to have a vodka martini at Annie's Steakhouse.

These were not the people who attended the very straight-laced Warren A.M.E Church, in Toledo, Ohio, where I grew up. At Foundry, I was home. These were my people, and this was my church.

After that White House performance, I started attending the 9:30 service and sang with Jubalate every Sunday. In 2002 I became a member of Foundry and quickly discovered the world of committees.

I served two terms on the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, served on the Congregational Council, played an active role in the Summer of Discernment in 2010, and most recently worked with the Bicentennial Committee to produce the fund-raising concert this past June with the Washington Revels Heritage Voices, a group that I perform with.

Eventually I got tired of getting up early, and about eight years ago I joined the 11:00 choir. I will say that thanks to Stanley's talents as a leader singing with the choir is challenging, but always rewarding.

A few years after joining the choir, In the strangest of coincidences, I learned that choir member France Prince, a girl from Little Rock, is the sister of a talented woman, Dr. D. LaRouth Perry, who taught at my high-school in Toledo, Ohio, who lived on the same street that my family did, and who directed the first church choir that I sang with, the Youth Choir at Warren A.M.E Church. Frances's brother, Clarence, an amazing jazz musician was the pianist for the choir, and her youngest sister, Connie, was a member of the congregation.

Foundry is indeed home, and a constant positive presence in my life. This is why I am Foundry...generously loving, serving, and giving, in any way that I can. I encourage you to do so as well. 

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