Tonight my wife and I attended a Mormon church (or "stake") for the first time in our lives, at the invite of a friend of mine. It was a missionary service dominated by a choral concert. I occupied my time sketching faces in the choir, which are reproduced here. Colored pencil and crayon added (badly) later at home.
We didn't attend because we are shopping for a new worship experience. My wife is comfortably Catholic, and I'm all set with my American Indian spirituality. (Our daughter has learned to identify my church, perfectly accurately, as "the trees and the frogs.") We were drawn to the St. Louis North Stake in Hazelwood because of the choir director: Gladys Knight McDowell, of The Pips fame. Her choir, based in Las Vegas, is Saints Unified Voices.
They were backed by a smoking organ trio (organ, keys, bass, with drum samples), which gave the choir a rhythmic boost and a lot of flavor. The choir itself was evidently a stretch for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints faithful, as the speakers who (tactfully) delivered the missionary message in between sets spent a lot of time marveling at how far-out this concert must seem to the Mormons in the crowd. It struck me as decidedly high-church, though there are some sweet voices in the choir, and I'll not soon forget the experience of having Gladys Knight sing ten yards from my face. Her voice has lost nothing.
Sister can preach, too. She met the guests right where we were - puzzled at to what she was doing in the Mormon faith. She was witty and passionate about her path. My wife and I left the stake assured in the same faiths we brought into the service, but there can be no question that Gladys and her choir will win some converts to the church of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.
As a strange aside - a confluence - I owe my introduction to a Mormon stake to Dred Scott!
Last year, I was recruited to serve on a committee dedicated to organizing a year of events to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision. Mormons are big into genealogy, which was one reason they had a seat at the organizing table - our year was studded with new revelations about Dred and Harriet Scott's family that were discovered by area geneaologists.
Dana King (no relation to me) was a great help on our Dred Scott committee, and she was nice to turn us onto an intimate night with Gladys Knight.