Friday, January 20, 2006

Union Gospel Mission Men's Chorus

Some of the best hymn singing in the greater Seattle area goes on at the Union Gospel Mission every night before dinner. Homeless men come in for a chapel service about 5:00 PM and the hymn books come out. I first volunteered to lead singing many years ago when I was working as delivery truck driver for a piano retailer in downtown Seattle. A salesman, who was also organist at Ballard Baptist, asked if I'd like to help him out at the Mission. Even then, when most churches still sang from hymn books, I was astonished by the singing at Union Gospel. I was even more surprised when they started calling out hymn numbers. We sang and sang, and the singing hasn't diminished in power and enthusiasm since then because the hymn books are still in the battered pews.

When the men from 1st Avenue and the waterfront sing, they SING!. With a little work I could make a sailors chorus for Wagner's Flying Dutchman. "Steuermann, Hey! Steuermann Ho!"

I wish you could still walk into any church on Sunday and sing like the guys at Union Gospel.


scribe said...


You ought to write an essay about this and get it published in a magazine. It would make a good story.

Michael Dodaro said...

I don't know if the singing is as robust at Union Gospel Mission in any other city, but it has been holding strong in Seattle over the past twenty five years. It would be interesting if, instead of going to the mission, I could bring a bunch of the guys into a church for an evening of hymn singing. The problem is that too many churches don't have hymn books anymore.

scribe said...

I've visited several missions and I've never heard of the singing that you describe at Union Gospel. This is an unusual occurence, and may be indicative of a spiritual or social vitality not often found in missions. So I think this would be a good story for a magazine like Image or Touchstone.

Touchstone pays $100 per printed page--think about it.

Ray said...

Mike, my church uses only hymn books to sing from. No overheads, powerpoint, praise bands, etc. Bring your group out here.

About 20 years ago I would occasionally go to our local mission for indigent men to lead singing or even speak. There would be a few robust singers, but most acted like they were there for one reason, because they had to be in order to get the hot meal and dry bed. Your experience is probably unusual.

Michael Dodaro said...

On one occasion I went down to Union Gospel Mission with a chior from First Presbyterian. The guys were singing just fine without us, but, when our turn came, they listened attentively and applauded. There was a sermon by a member of the staff, and it was more interesting than many I've heard before and since.