OYSTERVILLE - The 32nd ecumenical music vespers season begins Sunday, June 13, at 3 p.m. at the historic church in Oysterville. Featured will be the Ocean Park Lutheran Choir under the direction of Bud Runyon with Barbara Poulshock, piano accompanist. Leading the worship service will be Pastor Jerry Fergurson.
The annual summer vespers services traditionally begin on Father's Day and continue through Labor Day with the exception of 'Jazz and Oysters Sunday' in August. "This year however, there will be one more service than usual so we are beginning a week early," says vesper organizer Sydney Stevens. "Popularity of the summer vespers series continues to increase, and this year we had more ministers and musicians volunteering their services than we had Sundays! We couldn't be more delighted!"
The church, built by the Baptist denomination in 1892, was rededicated as an ecumenical church in 1978. Shortly thereafter, the vesper services were conceived by Bill and Dale Espy Little as a way of keeping the old building in use for religious services and, at the same time, raising money toward its continuing upkeep. Vespers participants all volunteer their time and talents so that the proceeds from the collection baskets each Sunday can be turned over to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation, the organization responsible for the building's maintenance.
In keeping with the ecumenical nature of the church, pastors of various denominations conduct the summer vespers services each week. Most are affiliated with churches on the peninsula, though a few ministers are from out of the area but have family ties or other connections to the local community. Music ranges in genre from popular and folk, to classical and church choirs, and includes both secular and religious music. Underscoring the historic ambiance of the little church, each service includes one or two old, familiar hymns sung by the congregation to the accompaniment of the vintage pump organ.
In addition to the music program and minister's message, each vesper service features a five-minute 'Oysterville Moment' during which a member of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation tells a little about the church or about the history of Oysterville.
"When it's my turn I tend to talk about the early days here and tell a story or two about some of the characters that have lived here. There is plenty of material, believe me," laughs Stevens. "At other times the 'Oysterville Moment' concerns the church, itself - about why the pews are divided or what the little room on the north side was used for in the early years. People enjoy hearing a bit of the past as they sit in the enchanting old building."
Vesper services, which last an hour, are open to the public. Congregations are often an eclectic mix of tourists, peninsula residents, and even 'regulars' from the Lower Columbia region who make it a point to come to the services throughout the summer. Everyone is encouraged to "come as you are" and join in the music worship service.