JACKSONVILLE (FBC)—Dot Chambers was 29 years old and “four inches taller” when she joined the worship choir at North Jacksonville Baptist Church in 1947.
Now, 65 years later, the 94-year-old great grandmother is still making a joyful noise, not only in the worship choir, but in the “old folks” choir, too, and playing piano for Sunday School. Chambers attends church four times a week—at a minimum—including two Sunday services, Tuesday evening choir practice and Wednesday prayer meetings.
The congregation, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, recently honored Chambers, or “Ms. Dot,” as most of the church members lovingly call her, in recognition of her 65 years of faithful service in the music ministry.
But she is quick to say, “It’s not about me. It’s about God and what he did through me. He has given me a good life.”
With her positive and contagious spirit, the diminutive woman who battles scoliosis and once stood at 5'1", does not allow her health, or the death of her husband and younger siblings, to get her down. Instead she focuses on her many happy years and the blessings she has had.
“I want to serve the Lord in the best way and for me it was through music. I pray every day I will be a blessing to someone,” Chambers said.
Serving as a blessing may include retrieving a neighbor’s garbage can from the side of the street, encouraging someone to smile or still volunteering at Jacksonville’s St. Vincent’s Hospital once a week. Or it could mean sharing her faith with a young woman who wrecked into Chambers’ car by changing lanes and crashing into the older woman’s vehicle. Still concerned about the young woman several months after the accident, Chambers has called to encourage her spiritual walk.
She also spends time with her great grandchildren, taking them on excursions, and filling in for their grandmother who passed away earlier.
Chambers has been involved in church music all of her life from the time her father insisted she learn to play the piano at age 6. Music was in the family’s blood and he often served as song leader in Florida Baptist churches near Palatka, Green Cove Springs and Middleburg, leading revivals and singing in gospel quartets. Often he would take her to play for the group as they traveled throughout North Florida.
Growing up, she was expected to share her talents for the Lord through church music, and once as a teenager provoked her father’s ire for sitting in the back row of the church. He stopped the service mid-song, looked around and loudly said, “Dottie come back up here in the choir where you belong,” she recalled.
And in all her years, she has never wavered from that commitment.
The alto singer has sung in duets and trios. And although she especially loves hymns, she likes all kinds of music, including contemporary music, unless it is “too repetitious.”
She does admit, however, that she had to adjust to clapping during songs, as is typical in many churches today. Although worship leader Tim Rigdon told her not to clap “if you don’t feel like it,” Chambers yielded for the cohesiveness of the choir.
She has seen many changes during the past nine decades, not only in music but in styles of dress in church. “Things change,” Chambers said. “Old people have a hard time accepting changes. But I am learning to go with the flow.”
“Ms. Dot is one of our most faithful choir members, singing every Sunday as well as all of our special music presentations,” said Rigdon, who called the beloved choir member “one of my biggest supporters.”
“The Worship Choir is a calling to Ms. Dot who always has a song in her heart and a faithfulness that is incredible. She has been such a blessing and encouragement to me and my family through the years.
“May all of us be as faithful as she continues to be in her calling and love for the Lord,” Rigdon said.
Terry Williams, strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention’s Music and Worship Ministries Team, expressed amazement that Chambers maintained a level of commitment to the ministry for 65 years, calling it “rare.”
“I can only imagine the sheer number of songs she has sung, not to mention the stylistic changes she has encountered over these years. I know she will be tuned up and ready to sing in the heavenly choir one day in glory,” Williams said.
But Chambers is far from ready for the heavenly choir. She has too many blessings to count and songs in her heart to sing for the Lord.
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Copyright © 2013 Florida Baptist Witness
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