MARTINSBURG - The Martinsburg Ministerium has pastors who rock.
Five of its members have formed a band called Them Preachers with music that adds a rock 'n' roll edge to traditional hymns and praise choruses.
The group will demonstrate that sound when it appears in concert 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at Curryville Church of the Brethren.
(Courtesy photo) Members of Them Preachers are (from left) Joel Nogle, Joe Furry, Jerry McCuller, Scott Schul and David Stiles
Pastor David Stiles, president of the ministerium, is lead guitarist for the group. He said the group came together last winter when he and Pastor Jerry McCuller, keyboardist, and Pastor Joel Nogle, vocalist and guitarist, performed at Morrisons Cove Park annual Winterfest in Martinsburg.
The event is sponsored by the park to bring the community together when the weather gets colder and the ministerium was asked to provide worship music for the event.
Word spread quickly about the three ministers singing and playing guitars, said Stiles, who is pastor of Curryville Church of the Brethren.
The trio immediately wanted to keep performing and received some unexpected help to launch the group into a full-fledged band.
Joe Furry, pastor of Martinsburg Mennonite Church, offered his drumming skills, and it was not long until the new pastor in town, Scott Schul of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, offered to play bass.
"At our first practice [as a five-member band] , we sounded like we had been together a year," Stiles said.
Stiles described the group's style by suggesting the scenario of Stevie Ray Vaughn leading worship.
"It's something between contemporary worship and blues," he said.
Them Preachers takes hymns, such as "Revive Us Again" and "What Friend We Have in Jesus," and adds a bluesy sound, Stiles said.
"We're a rock band, but not a hard rock band," Stiles said.
"If Them Preachers were Bon Jovi, Joel [Nogle] would be Jon Bon Jovi, and I would be Richie Sambora," he said.
The group advertises itself as a "Christian music with spunk."
"Spunk is a Greek word for rock," Stiles said.
He said Nogle once told his congregation, "If you expect you will hear your grandpa's Southern Gospel, you're wrong."
Stiles, who has been playing guitar for 30 years, said he finds it interesting that all of the members have musical backgrounds and some have degrees in music education.
Furry was a music education major in college with an emphasis on percussion. He said he loves musical variety.
McCuller, chaplain at Homewood Retirement Center, and Nogle, pastor of Martinsburg Memorial Church of the Brethren, have degrees in music education.
"I have played with a variety of groups with musical styles including jazz, progressive jazz, rock, big band, pop and contemporary Christian ... to name a few," Furry said. "I've had the joy of playing and recording music with all three of our children, either in bands we were in together or recording on someone else's project."
And not all of it has been at churches.
"I've played in nightclubs, country clubs, schools, churches and local fairs. I've even been known to sing a little," Furry said.
The members of the band are often swamped with their pastoral duties, Stiles said, but getting together to play music is exciting.
"There is a fire in the belly that we all have. If we had our way, we would perform three nights a week," Stiles said,
"It's very therapeutic for all of us," McCuller said, "Every time we're together, we're having fun."
But he also sees it as more than that.
"I think of it as an extension of our ministries, and we get to utilize our different gifts," McCuller said.
Despite each pastor having his own separate theology, representing several denominations, they collaborate on stage.
"We park our theology at the door," Stiles said, "It's all about the music and Jesus."