DECATUR - Glory, glory, hallelujah, the soul of Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church goes marching on.
And as the small sanctuary of the Decatur house of worship swelled to the sound of the Battle Hymn of the Republic on Sunday afternoon, the congregation staged its 65th Patriotic Tea and Musical.
The tradition dates all the way back to the crisis year of 1943, at the height of World War II as Trinity, founded in 1918 while Americans fought in World War I, sought to rally spirits at home.
The church has been singing the Republic's praises ever since in an event that features lots of stirring music and home-cooked food, and has become the major fundraiser of the year. Along to help Trinity make joyful, patriotic and lucrative noise on Sunday were guests who included choirs from the House of Miracles and Love Fellowship congregations.
"This occasion has endured because the people here love tradition, and they want to carry it on," said Trinity's pastor, the Rev. Patricia Havis.
Previous Patriotic Teas have raised up to $15,000, which the church uses for general up-keep while pursuing some ambitious goals, such as building a new education building. It also spends its time and money on funding activities that show younger generations that church is a cool place to be.
"I like the youth programs here, we get to go places," said Malia Anderson, 11, a keen church member along with big brother Trae, 15. "Last year we went to Six Flags, and this year we're going to Florida and Universal Studios."
Their mom, Angie Anderson, is youth director and one of the co-chairwomen of the Patriotic Tea. She says keeping the 150-strong congregation alive and kicking means making church relevant to everyone. "Our parents brought us up in the church, and we're bringing our kids up and hoping they will carry on that tradition, too," said Anderson, 48.
One pair of seasoned eyes who have watched the ebb and flow of generations belongs to Lucille Smith, 78, who first joined Trinity in 1959 and, at last count, has only missed three Patriotic Teas in the last 49 years.
"I enjoy them, and I enjoy the people here," she said. "I love this church, I love working in this church; it's a very friendly place."
Tony Reid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 421-7977.