Singing the Faith
Joan Campbell, a language arts and drama teacher at Owsley County High School in Kentucky, has been singing all her life. As a little girl growing up in southeastern Kentucky, she would sit on the porch swing and “sing at the top of my lungs.” She recalls how her mother once told her that their neighbor Mr. Newman could probably hear her all the way over the hill. Young Joan said, “Well, Mama, Mr. Newman loves to hear me sing.”
It seems many people appreciate Ms. Campbell’s vocal skills today. Judges and audience members declared her the winner of this year’s “Assembly’s Got Talent” in St. Louis.
A member of Warren’s Chapel United Methodist Church, Ms. Campbell is president of the Booneville Circuit United Methodist Women in the Red Bird Missionary Conference and vice president of the conference United Methodist Women. Members of her local unit encouraged her to participate in the Assembly talent competition.
Ms. Campbell likes many songs and genres but especially enjoys country gospel. She is a fan of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. When she sang at Assembly 2010, she chose Ms. Lynn’s signature “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which she considered a good fit for the Assembly theme of “Faith • Hope • Love in Action.”
The song has a great deal of meaning for her. Her grandfather was a coal miner, and she finds aspects of her own childhood reflected in the song’s lyrics. The second oldest of 10 children, she helped take care of her younger brothers and sisters while her mother tended to numerous household chores. She would keep her siblings entertained by telling stories and singing.
“I know about hard times, being from a family of 10,” she said. “And I know about love and faith. Mama did work hard. We did play and work hard. It says, ‘At night we’d sleep, cause we were tired,’ and we did.”
“Assembly’s Got Talent” was a wonderful experience for Ms. Campbell. After hearing one act that she was certain would be the winner, she found she wasn’t nervous anymore. She thought, “I’m not winning this. I’m just going to do my best and hope and pray that I don’t embarrass the ladies from Red Bird.” Then she simply enjoyed performing for a receptive audience.
Singing and faith are closely connected for Ms. Campbell. Two of her favorite songs are “One Day at a Time” and “When He Was on the Cross, I Was on His Mind.” She chooses the songs she sings very carefully, and the words come from her heart. For her, singing is an opportunity to be in service to God, to bring a message of love to those who hear her voice.
“If I sing at a funeral, I hope it gives comfort. If I sing at a fish fry, I hope somebody’s laughing and having a good time and clapping their hands,” Ms. Campbell said. “If I know of a special situation that’s going on with someone in the church, I’ll dedicate a special song to them and the words will be just for them.
“I just want to be a servant for God, in whatever capacity that might be.”
Her joy in serving is evident when she talks about United Methodist Women. She is especially excited about the opportunity she has with her circle to help women and children locally, in the state and around the world. Ms. Campbell describes the Booneville Circuit unit as very giving of their money, their time and their prayers.
“Even though we are just a little United Methodist Women unit meeting in a little southeastern Kentucky town, we are part of a global work for the Lord,” she said.”
Beth Dixon is communications assistant and NetNews Online editor for the Kentucky Annual Conference The United Methodist Church.