Deliverance Mass Choir
Tapping my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, I drove at a slightly safe above-the-speed-limit pace. “How late do you think we are?” I asked my dad as we drove down Main Street. “Well, it depends if they’re running on African time or not,” my dad said, and I smiled at the implied “like we are.” Coming from a white immigrant family with roots in South Africa, I’ve grown up with a unique perspective on race. Growing up, many of my closest friends were African or African-American. Thus, many childhood Sabbath afternoons were spent at my African auntie and uncle’s houses, or at churches at potluck. In fourth grade, I had a small identity crisis while filling out the ethnicity part of my standardized test. My reasoning went as thus: I wasn’t white because I was African; however, I wasn’t black either. So, what was I? After hesitating for a while, I discovered there was a third option—African-American. “Aha!” said I, and confidently penciled in the corresponding box. Because of these and other reasons, I like to consider myself rather color-blind—however, maybe I’m just racially confused.
We arrived about 15 minutes late, and although the parking-lot was filled, my haphazard driving skills managed to block a few other late-comers who smiled and waved graciously. The last time I went to a Deliverance Mass Choir (DMC) performance I must have been pretty young, because I don’t remember much at all. So, in a way, this was my first time—and I was understandably nervous with anticipation. Entering the All Nations Seventh-day Adventist Church, we discovered that the program was well underway. As we walked in we were immediately greeted by the grand sound of a just-finishing piece. I found a friend to stand by near the railing and took a good long look around the room.
The church auditorium was the picture of informal formality. People graced metal folding chairs in their Sabbath best, while others watched from the raised section in the back. In a crowd at the center of the auditorium stood the Deliverance Mass Choir, all 75 of them. Each member wore a uniform of blue, jean-styled shirts with black skirts or pants. Soon, the conductor signaled the drums and keyboard in the back, and the next song began.
As they sang, the auditorium was transformed into a hall of praise and worship. The Deliverance Mass Choir was comparable to an ocean of praise; the voices combined together with oceanic strength—rippling, crashing, swelling and moving—they flooded the auditorium with the power of their adoration. The refrains “Great is Thy Name” and “God Restores” became a collective testament and witness as each person in the choir sang along with individual passion that merged in unity with the rest of the group—resulting in singing that seeped with indescribable emotion. When the percussion died down, and the choir crescendoed alone, the strength and power was not one bit less. Many in the audience stood and joined the choir in praise, lifting their hands and singing along. Often when a piece would finish, not only would the audience begin clapping but the singers as well, everyone clapping together—not for each other, but for God and His amazing powerful love!
As the choir finished the song “God Restores,” DMC Director Olivia King took the mic and commented reflectively, “It’s a simple song, but it means so much.” Many in the audience murmured in agreement: “God restores, no matter what—your grades, your bills, your relationships, whatever it is—God restores.” And then when King began singing, “Then sings my soul,” the choir and audience joined in reverently, “How great Thou art, how great Thou art.”
Near the end of the service, Pastor Leonard Morant offered a few words, thanking DMC for their ministry. After reminding the audience that refreshments awaited them after the service—“Cheesecake, sweets…you name it!”—Darla Smothers-Morant turned the program back to the choir, which sang one last song.
Once again, I was amazed at the collective power and beauty the choir displayed. At moments it was as if they were enunciating with one great big voice—“I cannot praise you enough…” Six times over, praise; “I owe him, you owe him, we owe him, praise!”
During the song, King walked over to a member of the audience and invited her to come and sing a solo. When the people around me began to cheer and smile, I asked what was going on and was told, “Wow, this is going to be good—that’s like the best soprano!” Sure enough, the soloist had quite a voice! Joining right in with the rest of the choir she sang with a powerful and strong soprano voice.
After this last song, Pastor Tim Nixon prayed to close, and the formal event was over. However, the choir sang two more songs, dancing and bending joyfully with the rhythms, as the rest of the audience milled around smiling and greeting one another.
The Deliverance Mass Choir was founded in 1995 by Carlton “Buddy” Byrd, and through the years it has impacted the lives of many through its ministry. Once totaling over 120 voices, the choir currently has about 75 members—each joining together with their love of music and Christ to share it with the community.
Justin Frasier (freshman, business management), and Olivia Woodard (freshman, graphic design) are two members of the choir who shared their experience with me. This is their first year singing in the Deliverance Mass Choir, and so far their experiences have been, as Frasier said, “Overall…awesome!”
“Singing in a group where you are completely surrounded by beautiful heavenly voices is a peaceful yet exhilarating feeling,” Woodard said. “It is an amazing state of worship because you can portray every line of the songs.”
Frasier agreed, describing the feeling as “majestic.”
“The support is awesome. It reflects the character of Christ in a way,” Frasier said.
“It has definitely changed my life,” Olivia said. “I have been able to grow with Christ on a new level; both because of the music and also because of the family aspect of the choir. I have made new friends—and also realized how much work it takes to run something like this!”
As I drove back home that Sabbath afternoon I silently thanked God for the program that I had just experienced. It’s not every day that you witness over 75 people joining their hearts and voices together to praise our Savior and Creator God.