Phila. UMs surprise commuters with flash mob caroling

About 40 of “those singing Methodists” formed a musical “flash mob” that brought much-needed cheer to a Philadelphia street corner last Thursday night, Dec. 11. They sang Christmas carols and holiday songs to the delight of rush-hour commuters, neighbors and passers-by.

First UMC of Germantown (FUMCOG) led the effort with plenty of help from other churches and friends who gathered and sang together at Germantown and Chelten avenues for nearly 35 minutes. They offered listeners holiday classics like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World,” while their youngest members handed out candy canes and small Christmas ornaments.

Joining members of FUMCOG were carolers from Servants of Christ, Janes Memorial, Grace (Ogontz) and Fairless Hills First United Methodist churches. Also joining their instant “choir” were members of a neighborhood Unitarian Universalist church and the Germantown High School Community Coalition.

“We did it! Northwest Philly rocks!” wrote FUMCOG pastor, the Rev. Lorelei Toombs, announcing later that their flash mob sing-a-long made the front page of the Philadelphia Tribune. She first texted the idea to fellow pastors prior to a recent East District clergy breakfast meeting. At the meeting, she recalled, they pulled out their calendars and their “collegial support gave me the extra boost to ‘just do it!'”  Her own church members “first laughed when I pitched this vision,” she said, “but they showed up in force.

“Our simple motivation was to bring a smile and a gift of joy to unsuspecting commuters along the Germantown corridor,” she explained. “The holiday season is wonderfully festive and terribly stressful at the same time. It is a time of year when this unique mix of expectation and hope, joy and sorrow, can be especially challenging.”

As they assembled, one passer-by with two young kids asked if the group was about to sing carols, said Toombs. “Without any encouragement she jumped right in, took a song-sheet, and joined us.

“By the end of week people are tired and possibly wondering how they will get everything done. Kids’ wish lists are long, and resources are limited. Certain loved ones are sick or absent from our tables. If in our joining together in song we can bring joy to one another and to those around us, then we have accomplished our goal.”

By John Coleman, EPA Conference Communications Director