Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
biographyCarol Cymbala, Pastor Cymbala’s wife, serves as the director of The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and is also the daughter of the church founder, the late Rev. Clair Hutchins. Although composed of vocally untrained church members, the choir has been used by the Lord to preach the Gospel in song not only to the inner city of New York but also to the entire country and the world. The 275-voice choir has recorded three videos, a DVD, and numerous albums, six of which brought Grammy Awards. “The choir represents all different walks of life and every kind of sin,” Pastor Cymbala says. “You name it and we have someone who has been saved out of it, standing beside others who’ve grown up in the church.
In the early 1980s, Carol Cymbala decided to “make a little tape for the church,” and when she had trouble finding enough appropriate songs, she began writing them. Although she cannot read or write music, the Lord has given her a special gift that helps her to play with her heart through the power of the Holy Spirit. Over 25 years and many albums later, recordings and live performances continue to carry the choir’s sound and the Gospel’s message to people all over the world.
It is a highly unlikely ensemble, a mixture of ethic and economic backgrounds, in the heart of a city synonymous with coldness and decay. The choir is made up of attorneys and street people, nurses and ex crack addicts - what a unique cross section of humanity to spread the Good News of God’s saving grace in song! “none of us would have met if it weren’t for Christ,” says Pastor Cymbala. “Our backgrounds are just too diverse. But these are all people who have been lifted by Christ, so they’re singing - not about a theological position but about things that have happened to them. It’s not a theory; it’s an experience.”
The focus of the choir is always on ministry. During his introduction of the choir during a concert at the Moody Bible institute Pastor Cymbala said, “there’s nothing in the Bible about people standing in front of others and entertaining them. Any time you use the name of Lord, you either minister or you don’t do it at all. So we’re either trying to encourage you by singing hymns and psalms and spiritual songs or we’re trying to draw you into praising God with us because He’s the centre of attention.”
Starting each practice with a prayer sessions reinforces that principle. Even the rehearsal prior to the Sunday services are all closed in prayer as the choir asks the Lord to bless their music and anoint their songs for the service. “The great evangelist D.L. Moody found that the tender strains of the Gospel could open people’s hearts to the music of the soul,” Pastor Cymbala says, “and I find that the choir greatly facilitates the ministry that goes on here. In their own uniquely sincere and almost vulnerable way, some by not being trained singers, while others are coming from totally non-religious backgrounds, they are able to display an openness, a transparent ‘heartfeltness’ that opens up and triggers that the same thing in other people.” The logistics of travelling with a choir as large as The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir prove too cumbersome for more than a few ministry trips a year. A core group of singers called The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers travel much more frequently.
“I just want to see people drawn to Jesus Christ,” Carol Cymbala says, “I want the music to be the arrow that points them to Him.”
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