Most events start with an evening concert, but if you’re in Marion, Illinois the first third full weekend of March for the Truthseekers Homecoming, the weekend starts on Thursday morning. With coffee brewing at 8:00 AM and fresh donuts from a local bakery, the Thursday morning Prayer Breakfast is the gathering place for both the locals and those who’ve come in from afar to attend the event.
If you’ve been to the evening concerts at the Civic Center, you may have noticed that the Truthseekers only sing two or three songs to open the program. That’s because they sing at the Prayer Breakfast every morning and consider it the platform where they lead worship over the weekend. It’s a casual atmosphere and one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Thursday morning, after a plump donut from the fellowship hall, I made my way to the sanctuary for the morning service. The lead singer of the Truthseekers and promoter for the weekend, Jim Snider, made some announcements and then the Truthseekers kicked off their service with “Feeling Mighty Fine.” They led the morning service with songs like “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before,” “Leaving On My Mind,” “Father’s House” and “Because He Lives.” Jim exclaimed, “I have a chorus!” and asked Linda to start playing “Never Grow Old.” Afterwards, Jim shared, “My mom used to say, ‘I don’t like growing old but it sure beats the alternative!’ Can I do one more song?” This led into “Thanks To Calvary” and “Till The Storm Passes By” before turning the platform over to their pastor, David Dyer, for the morning sermon. The text was taken from James 1:5 and Psalm 63 and was about developing trust in your relationship with Christ. A wonderful word!
That evening, the 35th Annual Truthseekers Homecoming gathered at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center for the first evening concert of the weekend. The Booth Brothers and Mylon Hayes Family were scheduled, but with the passing of Wendy Hayes brother, the family could not make it and Avenue filled in for them. As Jim stepped on stage to kick off the night, he asked the crowd to, “Turn to page 45 in your red book…” Then after a chuckle, he said, “Awe, you don’t have your red book!” He then led the Truthseekers and the crowd in singing “Power In The Blood,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “Victory In Jesus.” On last chorus of “Victory In Jesus” he had everyone sing acapella and then he explained to the crowd that Wendy Hayes brother passed away earlier in the week and the family couldn’t be there that night. Jim then introduced Avenue, a group just starting out but would be no stranger to the crowd because it was led by Kasey Kemp, who grew up in Marion and was probably well know to most of the attendees.
Avenue came on stage with a bouncy tune called “Singing In The Heavenly Choir” and “That’s How I Know.” All smiles, Kasey greeted the crowd and let everyone know how they were praying for the Mylon Hayes Family and that they felt honored to fill in for them. Though folks knew Kasey, his group was new to everyone so Kasey introduced his tenor singer, Corey and his lead singer, Jacob. After singing a song about being “On The Battlefield For My Lord” Kasey played “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” on his trumpet. Next, Corey was featured on a song, “Built On Amazing Grace” and Jacob was featured on a ballad before their last song, the popular tune that says, “I’m going to a land where there’s never a night…” After, Kasey exclaimed, “Put your hands together for the Booth Brothers!”
The Booth Brothers walked on stage and began their set with a soothing arrangement of “He Leadeth Me.” Before the next track cued, Ronnie gave the crowd a thumbs up and Michael encouraged the crowd to sing along the next one – “Nothing But The Blood.” By the chorus, the crowd was singing the familiar lyrics right along with Ronnie, Michael and Paul. After, Ronnie said, “Oh, how I love this song…” This led into his feature, “In Christ Alone.” “Feeling Fine” followed and then Michael began to talk to the crowd in a way that would set a tone for the whole weekend. He said, “You don’t feel worthy of the forgiveness you hear about it these songs. I want you to give yourself permission to believe that what is said on stage this weekend is true – then dare to believe the love and grace you hear about is for you.” This introduced a song that had the lyrical message to match what Michael shared – it was their arrangement of “Touch Of The Master’s Hand” that featured Paul. I always enjoy this tune and think that it was a perfect fit for the mini sermon Michael had introduced it with. Next, familiar music played and Ronnie smiled, “We’re gonna tell you a story about the blind man.” Immediately after “He Saw It All” they went into “Facts Are Facts,” and encored it three times! Michael sat down on one of the stools huffing and puffing in an exaggerated fashion. Someone from the audience called out, “Do it again!” Michael replied, “We can’t! It’s not in the bulletin!” No matter how long they’ve been singing, they can’t get through a concert without a “bulletin” joke! Following, they closed the first set with “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet” and “Jesus Saves.”
After “Jesus Saves,” the guys told about their product and then broke for intermission where folks could visit in the lobby or make one last trip to the concession stand before it closed. When it was time to start the last half of the program, Jim Snider came on stage and had the crowd sing “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me.” When the last few notes were sung, Jim brought Avenue back on stage and they sang the classic Gospel song, “Heaven’s Jubilee.” After that upbeat tune, Kasey told the crowd that he felt the Lord nudging him to do a few songs acapella. The first was the hymn, “What A Day That Will Be” sung by Jacob and the second was “Jesus Loves Me” featuring their tenor, Corey. Avenue closed their set with a third ballad, “I Have Come By The Way Of The Cross,” and then Kasey asked the crowd if they would welcome back the Booth Brothers.
When the Booth Brothers took the stage for the second time, it was with an acoustic version of “Are You Washed In The Blood.” Afterwards, Michael told the story behind how they came to record “Happy Rhythm.” “We like to find songs that have a bass feature and then arrange it for a trio,” he teased. I for one, enjoy the swing they added to their rendition. It’s a favorite of mine that I love seeing performed live. As the evening came to a close they sang a song with Ronnie playing his acoustic guitar and then ended with “Then I Met The Master.” The arrangement of that ballad evokes quite the emotion and before the end of the night, folks were on their feet with hands lifted in praise.
Conclusion: I’ve been attending the Truthseekers Homecoming since 2012 – going to this event is like going home. Both the Prayer Breakfast each morning and the nightly concerts are things I look forward to every year. The music and preaching are always the best! This year was no different and the ministry on Thursday was a great kick off to the weekend.