It sounds like something out of a Hollywood movie: A black church in Hyattsville helps start a Jewish gospel choir in downtown D.C.
(It’s not far off from a scene in the underrated “Keeping the Faith,” in fact.) But it’s true.
The Turner Memorial AME Church in Hyattsville has long kept ties with the Sixth & I historic synagogue which took over its former location near D.C.’s Chinatown. But as this story in the Washington Post recounts, the two congregations decided to try something a little more involved last summer:
Interfaith efforts — folks from different spiritual backgrounds joining for community service or clergy discussing scripture — are one thing. But a black Christian worship leader teaching a bunch of mostly Jewish young novice singers to belt out Hebrew prayers set to gospel music?
“We laughed and said: ‘This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of. But wouldn’t it be a gift back to God if we were able to do it?’ ” chuckled Marty Lamar, 35, a soft-spoken, 6-foot-5 man who was an actor in professional musical theater and a teacher before coming to Turner.
The 21-person chorus, which Stutman calls a “ragtag group,” began meeting on Monday nights with Lamar to practice. The chorus has sung at several services, including one at a Baltimore synagogue and Sixth & I’s popular high-holiday events in the fall.
Technically, the Jewish choir is not calling itself a “gospel” group, since that word refers to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
But the “Jewish gospel” choir is a hit, so expect to hear more about them in the future.