The First Joy Senior Adult Choir of the First Baptist Church at Tallahassee, Florida, believes in making a joyful noise to the Lord, whether the sound is delivered in the form of a hammer striking a nail on a construction project or a vocalist hitting the right note during a concert.

Later this week, the 41-member group plans to do a little of both during a visit to the Oxford Hills area that is part musical and part muscle.

The choir will be in Maine to perform a handful of concerts and to help with a number of community outreach projects at area churches and nonprofit organizations.

Both the work and the concerts are free.

The group’s visit will be a reunion of sorts for the Tallahassee church’s minister of music Penny Folsom and pastor Mary Beth Caffey of the First Baptist Church of Paris.

The two met nearly a decade ago, when the Florida choir first visited Maine for a fall foliage trip and concert tour.

Since then, the women have stayed in touch, with Caffey occasionally venturing to Florida for a sabbatical.

“This particular choir has a special gift of encouragement,” said Caffey. “They have adopted and been there to support me during my 20-plus years of ministry here. These have not been easy days for many churches in Maine. Attendance is dropping, the congregation is aging and living on fixed incomes, with church expenses increasing every year. That makes ministry challenging. (The choir) understands how to share the love of God with our church and the local community, which is also our goal.”

The choir is a tight-knit group that monthly takes to their Florida neighborhoods to perform for assisted living facilities, a veterans home and nursing homes.

A mission-minded congregation, they also participate in annual service-based trips throughout the United States and the world to share their Christian faith and help with a variety of building and service projects.

According to Folsom, a few years ago, the First Joy crew ventured out on a concert tour that turned into a community outreach initiative.

Since then, the trips have focused on the joy of singing and serving others.

“Last year, we came to South Paris and fell in love with the community,” said Folsom. “We knew of Pastor Caffey’s efforts to try to revive that old church and thought it was time to reconnect again and minister to the people in this area. This kind of work is important to us and something we are called to.

INVESTING IN RETIREMENT

Stuart Folland, 76, has been providing bass vocals for the First Joy Choir for nine years.

A native Minnesotan, he moved to Pensacola, Florida, 30 years ago, relocating to Tallahassee after Hurricane Ivan leveled his home and business in 2004.

These days, Folland, who has 40-plus years experience in banking and finance, has discovered the great rewards of investing his time and talents in the various faith-based initiatives the choir lends itself to.

“All of our performances are based on interacting with our audience and doing mission work that takes us out into the community,” said Folland. “Last year, we sang at an assisted living center, did some work at a battered women’s shelter, helped one group insulate their home in preparation for winter and other small handyman jobs, working from a ‘honey-do’ list.”

Folland attributes a “health episode” to making him more aware of the things that really count in life.

While working at an outreach project 11 years ago, he suffered a spontaneous disection of the ascending aorta.

“My heart valve blew out like the tire on a car,” said Folland, who was airlifted to a hospital for emergency surgery. “That experience was nothing short of a miracle. I am grateful to God for the extra time that I have been given and am clearly focused on using it to give back to others.”

Folland’s dedication to the choirs’ mission of joyfully serving others is mirrored by the 45 or so other members, who range in age from 65 to 75 and hail from a pool of mixed work backgrounds.

Among them are longtime choir members Barbara, 74, and Jack Nix, 86, also of Tallahassee.

Both previously widowed, the couple, married since 2003, have participated in their church’s annual mission outings for the past 11 years.

All of those outings, including this week’s visit to Maine, are paid out-of-pocket by the individuals committing to the trip.

On average, those fees are about $700 and cover the costs for food, lodging and transportation, though some of the funding is supplemented by the church’s missions budget.

Asked why the couple is willing to undertake that cost each year, Barbara responded, “For me, the whole thing is about my relationship with Jesus. The scriptures teach us that when we know his love, we should want to share it with others. We do that in practical ways by going outside of the church walls and building relationships with others through our music and service. My husband and I consider ourselves newlyweds. We know that we’ve been called to this work and that we are much more effective together then we could ever be alone.”

While the physical challenges of a rigorous traveling schedule and its effects on an older frame could be understandably lamented, there was not one complaint uttered among this traveling group of senior minstrels.

“We may not see as sharply as we once did, and some of us have to keep our meds close by, but the spirit of adventure is still alive in us,” said Folland. “We’re like a bunch of high school kids on a class trip, discovering new territory and meeting new people.”

CONCERT ON WEDNESDAY

While in town, the choir will give a community concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the First Baptist Church, 500 Paris Hill Road, Paris.

Admission is free but attendees are urged to bring items to supplement area food pantry supplies, such as toilet paper, laundry detergent and diapers. A free-will offering also will be received.

The group also will perform at the Seniors Center at the First Baptist Church of Paris, the Maine Veterans Home and Market Square Nursing Home, at a community lunch at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Norway and during a breakfast meeting of the Oxford Hills Area Clergy Association on Thursday.

Outreach projects will include assisting with the Christ Episcopal Church food pantry in Norway, a blankets collection project benefiting native Americans through the Deering Memorial Methodist Church, working at the Alpha and Omega Thrift Store and doing a variety of yard work and home construction projects in South Paris.

For more details or to donate for these ongoing projects, call the Rev. Mary Beth Caffey at 754-7970 or email [email protected]