A calling to sing

Published 12:27 pm Friday, March 18, 2011

Dan Schrock, principal of Maranatha Bible School in Lansing, and his wife, Ruth, begin their annual choir tour with the school's students at Grace Lutheran Church in Austin, Sunday, March 20. -- Photo provided

At Maranatha Bible School in Lansing, singing isn’t a casual thing; it’s an everyday requirement. But staff and students take it one step further; they go on tour — nationwide and worldwide.

Since 1978, Mennonites from a vast expanse of places have come to Maranatha Bible School, where they study for three weeks, six weeks or longer. “Bible training is what it amounts to,” said Dan Schrock, principal.

He has been with the school from nearly the beginning, and almost every year since.

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The curriculum contains a variety of courses, including different books of the bible, culture, missions work, emotional/spiritual courses, church life. However, choir could be considered a staple of the program. Depending on age, 17 or 18, the students take different courses for different durations; but they all sing.

Every year, students from the program go on tour — either around the country or internationally. This year, the group meanders its way from the Midwest, to the Southeast and back again. Dan’s wife, Ruth, said the students are excited for this year’s tour, which kicks off at Grace Lutheran Church in Austin.

Although they are performing at churches of different denominations from their own, Dan said the Maranatha Chorale enjoys sharing faith and songs with the others.

At both services, 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 20, the Maranatha Chorale will perform about 15 choral songs at Grace Lutheran. At 7:15 p.m. Friday, March 25, it will also perform at First United Methodist Church in Austin.

But the tour is vast. After leaving Minnesota, the group will visit Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin.

“We do a little amount of sight seeing, just to take a break,” Ruth said, “but basically it’s a choir tour.”

The tour coincides with the end of school sessions at Maranatha Bible School, which run from January to March. Although students aren’t required to go on tour, as they pay their own expenses, all 35 of them joined the tour this year.

“We’re excited about it,” Ruth said. “We enjoy it.”

Next year, the students can enjoy another international tour, as the school alternates national and international tours every year. Maranatha singers have visited countries such as Guatemala, Belize, Peru and several places in Europe.