BELONGING THROUGH SONG
Director of Children and Youth Choirs, All Saints’ Episcopal Church | Atlanta
How are children seen, heard and represented at your Episcopal church? Karol Kimmell, All Saints’ Atlanta’s Director of Children and Youth Choirs for 26 years, believes that children belong in every facet of worship and community. Including children in the joy of continually praising God with words and actions is so embedded in her that she broke into song:
This, this is where children belong,
welcomed as part of the worshiping throng.
Water, God’s Word, bread and cup, prayer, and song:
This is where children belong.
Music’s powerful current energizes children and the entire All Saints’ congregation. “Our young singers learn songs, how to lead liturgy and prayers, and then do it with everyone—not just other children. That’s powerful and memorable,” Kimmell said. “Children and youth choirs are a great way for us to learn worship practices, music, artistic expression and the language of songs and poetry of the Christian faith – all the while providing fellowship and fostering spiritual growth. You can’t get that combination anywhere other than a church choir.”
In 1998, Kimmell’s own children were in third and sixth grades when All Saints’ hired her to start a youth choir for middle and high schoolers. That same year, Titanic won the Best Picture Oscar and Google was founded, and at All Saints’, Kimmell would become a classic fixture, as well.
As much as musical achievement, Kimmell loves nurturing children’s grasp of a hymn or anthem’s lyric storytelling. “The ‘aha moments’ tend to happen in rehearsals when we’re picking apart this melody or that rhythm or explaining the text, and they ask, ‘What’s that word in the hymn? What is that Bible story behind it?’” Another strength of the program comes from Kimmell’s assurance to prospective parents: “Your child’s going to learn how to pay attention and focus as they follow a director, and as a team, they’ll learn how to work together to express themselves.”
Every chorister now has been born during her tenure. During the pandemic, each choir met weekly online. The strong commitment by singers and families before and since that time have kept participation strong. “We have a strong core of dedicated families, nurtured by the formation and music team. Younger siblings join choir and many sing through 12th grade, returning to sing on Christmas Eve as alumni.
Kimmell still looks forward every August to the startup of choirs, to see how the children and youth have grown and changed, and she’s always eager to start on that year’s music and events: “I love working with children and youth through music!”