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  • Writer's pictureBeltsville News

Farewell, Kathryn Griffin! By Bobbie Deegan

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

Kathryn Griffin has been the music director at Emmanuel United Methodist Church for over 40 years. She retired in August and moved to North Carolina to be with family. The Emmanuel Congregation and Community wishes Kathryn god speed and blessings on her next chapter.

“To everything there is a season,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and sadly, Kathryn Griffin’s time at Emmanuel has come to an end. I wasn’t able to attend her farewell party, so I am taking this opportunity to share with the congregation how much a part of Emmanuel Kathryn has been over the years.

Emmanuel’s newer congregants know Kathryn as our dedicated organist, Director of the Chancel Choir, and (when we have youth in the right age group who want to participate), Children’s Choir Director. But she is much more than that. Kathryn has been an integral part of almost every program we have had at Emmanuel “pre-COVID.” With her encouragement, Emmanuel’s Chancel Choir members were featured at Emory Grove’s summer Hymn Sing one Wednesday evening each year. A few years ago, the hymn sing accompanist unexpectedly was unable to attend, so Kathryn graciously agreed to fill that role as well, with no notice and no time to familiarize herself with the music. She led the congregation’s annual Christmas caroling to area shut ins. When Rev. Daniel Mejia was pastor, Emmanuel had two “Community Days.” For the musical activity, Kathryn helped children create their own “musical instruments!” In my opinion, Kathryn’s finest hour came during Vacation Bible School each year. Every evening for a week, Kathryn taught each age group of children several songs (complete with motions) based on that year’s VBS theme. I taught just one age group a nightly lesson for a couple of years, and that was exhausting. I cannot imagine how much energy it took to work with dozens of children for two hours each evening! And she did a great job with them.

Kathryn’s biggest contribution was to the weekly church service, though. Kathryn tailored each Sunday’s anthem to the pastor’s message that week. Did you notice? When the church’s budget started getting tight, Kathryn began selecting individual pieces to create our own Easter and Christmas cantatas instead of purchasing new works, as had been done in more affluent times. She also wrote the text that connected the songs to the Lent and Advent seasons. She led the effort to commission an anthem in honor of Emmanuel’s 150th anniversary, too.

Besides being a staff member, Kathryn was a member of the congregation. Her children and grandchildren attended Emmanuel’s Sunday School. Kathryn participated in UMW activities such as the Mother-Daughter Communion Breakfast, and when church support for the ESOL program waned and we couldn’t get anyone to cover the Registration Table for an hour on Tuesday evenings, Kathryn stepped up and filled that role, too.

I am very happy that Kathryn now is free to enjoy her retirement without the demands of being at Emmanuel every Sunday. Emmanuel was blessed to have her leading our music program for as long as we did. But many of us (especially the choir members) will feel her absence very keenly!

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