Pauls Valley Democrat
The idea of any church is to act as a center of strength and comfort in a community, but what often attracts members to any congregation is a unique showcase of talent through worship.
One such example would be the First Christian Church of Pauls Valley and its investment in their ministry through music, led until recently by Reba Jo Ward.
However, after several decades in what was a second stint as choir director, she felt it was time to step aside and allow a fresh perspective, that of member Vaughn C. Johnson to take the program forward.
“I felt like with me leading it, we needed a new energy level and challenge for the choir,” said Ward. “I saw that in Vaughn.”
It was back during the summer when the church board approved hiring Johnson, who had actually been approached a year or so before, yet only recently through circumstances in his own life decided to take the leap. It was much easier deciding to attend the church and just be a member of the choir, but after a series of medical issues changed his plans of leaving to live closer to family, he changed his mind at least for the near future.
“At the time I said well, I’m hoping to move back to Houston…. Then with all the medical bills it’s going to be years before I move away to anywhere so I thought while I’m here I might as well do something,” said Johnson, who originally grew up in Pauls Valley before moving here back in 2009. “When I got to our church I knew this was the place for me.”
Johnson doesn’t quite have the decades-long choral leadership background Ward does, with his expertise more on the theatrical side of things, but he still has plenty of cherished memories of his own.
He noted how he was fond of getting to travel and sing with the group at different churches and borrows from the philosophy of a couple of directors he sung under where people should try to do their best as well as focus on the importance of the message in the song.
“I like music so much and I’ve been singing in church choirs for 30 years and that’s always been so enjoyable,” said Johnson
“I really think the message is one of the most important things, but I sure like to have everything done right.”
In the future, Johnson would like to expand the choir’s reach further into the community by doing more with existing traditions like the Christmas or Good Friday service with the Presbyterians and even inviting or going to other churches on a fifth Sunday arrangement.
As someone who also was a school teacher he realizes every opportunity is a chance to learn, something he will do as he works with those who wish to sing as well.
“We’ve got the coordination with the Presbyterians, I’d just like to expand into other churches,” said Johnson, who now also leads all the congregational singing as well.
“Since I’m retired I’ll have plenty of time to and it will take some time to figure it out.”
Though Ward has taken a step back, she isn’t leaving the church or choir and instead will be a part of the singing, something she has never lost her love for.
The choir typically meets each Wednesday at the church, 300 North Ash, at 7 p.m. and worship service for the church begins at 10:45 a.m. each Sunday.
“I have to serve my lord and that’s the way I serve my lord,” said Ward. “He gets all the credit; he just uses me as an instrument.”