From the day they married back in 1962, Dennis and Mildred Carpenter have answered the call to music ministry at several churches in Hall County.
On May 27, they will conclude 37 years of service to the congregation of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on Browns Bridge Road.
They both say that just as the Lord led them into the music ministry, he has given them assurance that it is time to step down.
“We’re going to keep singing,” said Mildred, who began singing in church at the age of 8. At age 11, she began playing for funeral services. In those days, funeral director Pete Davenport would pick her up from elementary school to play the piano at a funeral. Her performances now number in the thousands.
Dennis Carpenter was born into a musical family. His brother, Bill, and sisters, Bobbie and Betty formed the Carpenter trio, a popular gospel singing group that traveled throughout the region. Young Dennis joined the trio at an early age. Dennis continued singing while attending Bob Jones University and Truett-McConnell College.
Longevity must be a family thing; his sister Bobbie Foster has been playing the organ at First Baptist Church of Cornelia for 55 years.
When the Carpenters came to Pleasant Hill, Gerald Ford was president of the U.S. and gasoline was 57 cents a gallon.
“The church told me they didn’t have much money and offered $15 a week,” said Dennis. The money covered choir practice on Wednesday night and two services on Sunday. During the week, Dennis owns and operates North Georgia Rental.
The Carpenters have performed together for so long that Mildred knows that Dennis is likely to stretch out a note on a particular song without looking for a cue.
I’ve known Dennis and Mildred for more than two decades and have enjoyed the beautiful music they make.
There have been many times I have entered a funeral home chapel to mourn the loss of a friend and have been comforted by Mildred’s mastery of the keyboard. She has a style that is uniquely hers and one does not have to see her playing to recognize her touching arrangements of meaningful songs.
Their 37-year milestone is a rarity in today’s church and both of them say that it seems like only yesterday they began their work at Pleasant Hill. There are a handful of members of the 50-voice choir that have been with them since day one.
They make no bones about their love for traditional hymns and gospel songs. It has been the songbook of their lives in nearly a half century of marriage and ministry. Singing about Jesus is their passion and they prefer the beautiful poetry set to music in a hymnal.
I share their love for the great hymns of the church. The words of writers like Fanny Crosby, Charles Wesley or Issac Watts are as relevant as they were a century ago. There are some beautiful praise choruses that have been composed in recent years, but those great old hymns are our heritage.
Luther Bridgers, who wrote the gospel classic “He Keeps Me Singing”, is buried at Alta Vista Cemetery.
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know, fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go,” Bridgers wrote.
I hope the Lord keeps Dennis and Mildred “singing as they go” for many years to come.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.