Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Joyce Allen

Hand in Hand didn’t exist until chapter 3 in my musical journey.  I was a junior majoring in elementary education at Arizona State when I was approached by Bernie Rolfe and asked if I might be interested in auditioning for The New Beginning.  Actually that is even chapter 2. 

Chapter 1 begins with a shy young high school sophomore, named at the time Joyce Woolary, who had a passionate interest in music.  But, it was the furthest thing from her mind that her dream of being able to someday use that expression in her newfound life as a believer was even a remote possibility.  You actually had to have the courage to risk trying and she (I) had not even had the courage to join high school choir.

I had met Bernie and Dean as they were attending Bethany Bible Church, as was I, and was aware that they had founded a singing group called The New Beginning.  This was a radical departure for the late 60... fusing the gospel with contemporary rock and roll music.  
My freshman year at ASU I was dating the roommate of Bob Grove, who was also part of The New Beginning.   Threads in the form of friendships were being woven together for His purposes.  At one point, Bernie approached me about the possibility of auditioning.  They were needing….a soprano.  Okay, God, my dream....except for one detail.  I was/am not a soprano.  I had to graciously decline.  I knew it.  It wasn’t meant to be.  Then one day early fall of my junior year, Bernie again called to ask if I would like to audition.  This time they were looking for an alto.  I have no idea how I mustered the courage to sing in front of , first Bernie….then the rest of the band.  Suffice it to say, I did, and they VOTED me in.  Had I realized there would be a VOTE, I dare say I might have declined the offer as too risky.  I mean vote implies the possibility of rejection.  

Chapter 2 became years of two a week practices and weekends filled with concerts.  It was a magical time.  Concerts filled with curious seekers wondering who this Jesus was that we so passionately sang and spoke about.   It was a movement, the genesis of Contemporary Christian Music.  We would hear of others with this same message….Love Song, Keith Green, 2nd Chapter of Acts and The Way (which featured current CCM artist Phil Wickham’s father).  Hundreds were choosing to believe and follow this Jesus.  It was also a season of marriages and baby births and balancing everyday life with ministry.  After several years of traversing every nook and cranny in Arizona with a couple forays into California we began to dream of a building where we could do concerts weekly and actually have the opportunity to follow up the fruit of our ministry.  This dream became solidified after spending time at a local coffee house ministry called The LOC.  We prayed…..fervently.   God provided.  Actually, that was what He had intended all along.  He just needed to spend some time with us on the road first.  

I remember the first time we walked into “the building” which would later be christened Hand in Hand... but would forever remain affectionately referred to as just “the building”.  It was eerily just as Bernie had described in a vision during one of our many heart-filled sharing sessions.  We knew it was meant to be.  It was our new home and would be for the rest of our years together as The New Beginning. The beauty of what God formed during those foundational years of ministry goes beyond any building.  It wasn’t about the building at all. The building was simply the place that ministry happened and relationships formed.

I am blessed to say that some 40 years later The New Beginning still exists.  No, we haven’t done a formal concert since 1976.  But it was never just about the band, either.  That, too, was far more than about music.  The New Beginning is family, bonded forever together by a common passion to express through music what was gifted to us through our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 

Addendum:  A couple years later I was brought out of “retirement” at the ripe old age of 28 and invited to sing with a band called New Song founded by former bandmates Steve and Barb Tessitore.  It was a blessed 2 years spent singing with a whole new crop of talented, albeit much younger, musicians.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Joyce! I had forgotten that we called it "the building". What a down=to-earth name. Just like the folks that gathered there.

    I'm so thankful that I was able to hear you sing in the New Beginning and New Song. What a blessing you were to all of us. Thanks for sharing your gift.