A bunch of Methodist ministers will be standing on the platform at First United Methodist Church in Hollidaysburg Thursday, but none of them intend to preach.
Instead, they will tell their message in song.
The ministers are members of the Chi Rho Singers. The group's name comes from the Greek letters X and P, which are the first two letters in the Greek word for Christ. The superimposed letters were an early form of a Christogram.
Chi Rho performs at a different church of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church from September through May.
For this final concert of the season, the members will blend their voices with pastors from the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The groups are known as clergy choirs, a unique body of singers, especially in the days of worship teams and bands. The group sings classical, traditional, contemporary, folk and folk rock selections.
If you go
Who: The Chi Rho Singers
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: First United Methodist Church, 801 Allegheny St., Hollidaysburg
Admission: Free; an offering will be taken.
Chi Rho has about 50 members, but only about 30 to 35 sing at any given time.
Six singers are from the Altoona area with other members coming from churches in the conference's territory which stretches from the Pennsylvania line at Maryland to New York's border and also takes in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area.
Established in the 1930s, the Chi Rho Singers was an all-male choir until about 20 years ago.
The Rev. Carol Gathagan, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, Altoona, said female pastors who love to sing, asked to join the choir and their male colleagues welcomed them.
A soprano, she learned about the choir at the annual conference and was invited to try out.
The Chi Rho singers are under the direction of the Rev. John Dromazos, who served as a pastor for 42 years, including service at Hicks Memorial United Methodist Church in Duncansville.
He also has a background in music.
Before becoming a pastor, he earned a degree in music education at the State University of New York at Fredonia and taught music in high schools as well as directing church and school choirs.
He sang in the choir for 15 years before becoming the director about 10 years ago.
Dromazos of Lewisburg said his biggest challenge is the group's unpredictable size.
"I never know how many are going to be there," he said. "It could be as few as 12 or as many as 45. It makes it interesting, but it always works out."
The choir meets the fourth Thursday of the month at one of the more than 950 churches in the conference where the concert is scheduled. The singers rehearse from 1 to 5 p.m. and present the concert at 7 p.m.
Among the participants from the Altoona area is the Rev. Don Haulman, a retired minister who lists Hicks United Methodist Church as his last charge and continues to attend church and help out there.
Haulman of King sings bass and has been a member of the Chi Rho Singers for 49 years.
"It's a real privilege to be a member of choir," he said. "Music is important to me, and I enjoy singing."
Haulman values the choir not only for the opportunity to express his faith, but to develop relationships with others in pastoral ministry.
He said practicing self care is important to a pastor's professional life and getting together with peers is a way to do that.
"It's refreshing," he said of the day. "Not only are we supportive, it's a different form of ministry."
Gathagan called it a "stress buster."
"We sing. We laugh. We have a good time," she said.
She said the conference consists of nine districts, and a concert is held in a different district each month. She said the choir gets invitations to sing in country churches as well as city ones.
"We set the day aside and we go," she said. "Sometimes we leave at 8 a.m. and don't get home until 11:30 or 12 o'clock at night."
For Dromazos, joining pastors from all over the conference into one choral entity is worth it.
"I do it because I get a great deal of satisfaction from putting on the very best kind of worshipful concert I can do. I love directing and conveying to the people, the audience, the message of the music," he said.