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Voices rise for praise and fire victims
Voices from across Bollinger County have united once a month since at least 1947 in the Bollinger County Singing Convention. By singing praise and worship music, the group is able to raise money to help county residents who have lost a home or possessions to a fire, locally referred to as a "burnout."
Audrey Gromer is the president of the organization and has attended the convention regularly for five years. She said another singing convention in the area called the "Old Bollinger County Singing Convention" meets about twice a year. Although Gromer is involved with both conventions, she said they are separate entities.
She said the history of the Bollinger County Singing Convention is rich, but something else compels her to go and sing.
"We're trying to express God's love to people," Gromer said.
The group collects what they call a "love offering" at every meeting. The funds collected help Bollinger Countians in their times of need, specifically when they've lost their homes or suffered extensive damage due to fire. She said the group has recently assisted three Bollinger County families with funds raised at the singing conventions.
"This is missionary work that can be done locally to help our own neighbors," Gromer said.
She said the singing conventions provide a way for the singers to "pay it forward."
"This is our way of taking the blessings God has given us and passing them on as we have been taught by the Bible to help our brothers," she said.
Gromer said the singers encourage those who are helped to spread help to others when they're able.
"We're just trying to spread God's love to people," she said.
The group is not exclusive. Anyone is welcome to attend and sing or play an instrument. The only requirement is that the music is religious in nature and "gives praise to God," she said.
Gromer said all voices are welcomed, regardless of experience.
"God hears the praise from your heart," she said.
The most recent convention was held March 2, and Gromer said attendance has been lower than usual. She said in the past the convention attracted enough people to fill the churches. She urges people to support the convention individually, and she also urges county churches to become involved regularly.
"I'd like to see it bring the churches together as a community, not individualized by denomination," she said.
The convention rotates locations between the churches, she said, adding there are certain advantages to moving the location every month. She said more churches available to host the convention would keep it from being isolated to one particular area of the county. She also said it would create avenues of communication, so members of the convention can find out about people who are in need of help.
"We really regret it if we hear of a fire months later because we haven't been informed," Gromer said.
The Bollinger County Singing Convention meets at 2 p.m. the first Sunday of every month. Locations are listed in the Banner Press community calendar before the convention. Gromer said adjustments are made for holiday schedules.
For more information or to report a burnout, contact Audrey Gromer at 573-238-3714.
This article first appeared in the Banner Press in February.