Songs have a way of connecting people to others and to their past. That connection helped to start an event that has been growing for over a decade in Strathroy, Ont.
On August 31, about 200 people gathered from all over southwestern Ontario for the 12th annual Dutch hymn sing at Westmount Christian Reformed Church. Some drove more than two hours; many come each year to meet friends and make a day of it.
Organizer Marianne Kingma said, “The social part is very special and very important. I make sure that the treats with the coffee, tea, and punch have a Dutch flavor. It’s wonderful to see people enjoy that part of the day.”
The event was inspired by Kingma’s mother, who had dementia in her last years of life. Kingma visited her in the nursing home and sang Dutch hymns with her mother as a way of connecting. “She sang every note and every verse from any song that I picked,” said Kingma. “She could not speak, but she could clearly sing the words.”
Sometimes, Kingma asked others from the same background to join in the singing. When someone suggested she organize a Dutch hymn sing in the church, she started small, inviting people from a few local churches, and was surprised to see about 30 people attend.
The event has grown every year since, now bringing about 200 people together for 90 minutes of singing, with fellowship and goodies after the program.
Kingma chooses a theme each year—the Psalms, the life of Christ, and, this year, “God, the Creator.” In part of the program, participants can choose favorites from a list of about 55 songs. “People are very emotional about some of the songs,” said Kingma. “I often see people wiping tears. The energy in the sanctuary is amazing.”