Woven Stories: Faith and music inspire Anna-Marie

Woven Stories: Out of Many we are One imageThe HSHSL is currently collecting submissions for Woven Stories, a project aiming to highlight the diversity of UMB’s campus by sharing photographs and supporting stories of items of personal cultural significance.  The following is Anna-Marie Epp’s submission.  Anna-Marie is a Program Specialist in the Health Sciences and Human Services Library. Read on for inspiration and please consider submitting your own story!

Collage of two hymnal covers

I grew up in a Baptist church in a predominantly black community in Virginia where generations of my family prayed and worshiped, lived and worked. I Imagine, if there was one thing my family did since my great grandparents joined First Baptist Church in 1904, it was sing! It may be the reason music has always been what drew us closer in love and in faith. It’s why we’ve always known far more hymns than scriptures. It’s in our blood! 

Photograph of the cover of Gospel Pearls HymnalThese hymnals belonged to my Grandmother, Cleo Marie Wynn Bolling, a high school music teacher, church pianist, and choir director. The oldest of these is the Gospel Pearls Hymnal purchased by our church in the 1930’s and was likely her first hymnal. It holds old favorites like Amazing Grace, a hymn which my brother and I can still sing all 5 stanzas and not miss one word. 

Photograph of Peace Like a River Sheet musicMusic was the love of my grandmother’s life and among her favorite things to do was teach the stanzas of the hymns to our Junior Chorus. One of our favorites, Peace Like a River, is a hymn I still hum quietly to myself when I need to feel restored. My brother, cousins and I sang in that choir even after my grandmother’s passing in 1996 – after which my mother, Anna, became director.

Although I’ve changed and I no longer attend church often, I am in awe of each lesson, each value, each sweet line that I carry with me each day. Every time I think of a hymn, I sing it quietly with the joy of my young self, with the love of my grandmother and with the gratefulness to the faith (and the church) that raised me and made me who I am. 


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