Harmony Primitive Baptist Church Singing, November 19, 1995: “The Traditional Window Opening”

With their standardized formatting and regimented lists of leaders and songs, the minutes might give the impression of a greater degree of order than actually reigns at any given singing. Longtime singers will attest that conventions don’t always proceed according to plan—and occasionally the minutes reflect those haphazard moments when things go awry. Few such moments are so charmingly described as in the opening lines of the entry for the annual singing at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, in Calhoun, Georgia, for November 19, 1995:

The traditional window opening was performed by Jimmie Denney. In a break with tradition, Jeannette DePoy was designated to crawl through the window and unlock the church doors.

As Jeannette recollected at Camp Fasola in 2013, she had actually volunteered for the job. The preacher hadn’t shown up with the key as expected, so everyone was left waiting around outside. After a certain point, Jeannette started looking around for any possible way of getting into the church. “Here we were,” she remembered, “thirty-five people standing around outside of a church, and it’s getting later and later, and finally, I said, ‘this is ridiculous!’” She enlisted John Hollingsworth (not Jimmie Denney, despite what the minutes say) to help locate an unlocked window, and then, as she related, “I hiked myself up there in my long-ish skirt, and got in the window, and opened the door.”

Harmony Primitive Baptist Church

Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.
Photograph by Jonathon Smith.

About Nathan Rees

Nathan Rees is a member of the Board of Directors of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company and associate editor of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter. Originally from Utah, he lives in Carrollton, Georgia, where he is assistant professor of art history at the University of West Georgia.
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