The State of Ohio may be known more for Rock and Roll than for Southern Gospel, but with a State motto that declares: â€˜With God, all things are possibleâ€™, it is not surprising to find a family trio singing country-styled Christian music to a growing audience. The Copenhavers have been honing their talents for five years and with the release of â€œSunday Morning Feelingâ€, this group is sure to add to their growing fan base.
Cleveland rocks, but Creston Ohio echoes with Southern Gospel, thanks to this musical family. â€œIn our opinion, [this genre] is different then any other type of music because of one word: Gospelâ€, says Karen Copenhaver. â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter if you sing it with a Southern accent, a banjo, or the Prague Orchestra; what matters is if youâ€™re singing the Gospel.â€
How this family began singing Southern Gospel is a story that is often heard within the industry. One Christmas, Karen Copenhaver, the matriarch of the trio, was invited to play some seasonal songs for a community event. Along with sons Jim and Josh, Karen played and sang The Happy Goodmansâ€™ version of â€œUnspeakable Joyâ€ and â€œAmazing Graceâ€, a capella. A family ministry was born that day and it is still going strong as The Copenhavers celebrate their fifth anniversary and the release of a new recording.
â€œSunday Morning Feeling is our brand new CD,â€ says Karen. â€œThe title track is our favorite song because it is a catchy little tune that will stay with you during the wear and tear of the week. Itâ€™s not big, itâ€™s not fancy, just a simple message to keep you going and wanting to get back in church the following week.â€
The Copenhavers practice what they preach and when they are not on the road, you will find them in their local churches. Josh and Jim both attend West Hill Baptist Church in Wooster, Ohio. â€œIt is a great church,â€ says Josh. â€œWe sing occasionally when weâ€™re home, play softball, and help with our Senior High Mission Trip Auction.â€ Karen is the Pianist and Choir Director at Canaan Lutheran Church in Creston, Ohio.
Church attendance and singing have kept this family close, the ministry has added to that special bond that is obvious to their audience. The Copenhavers say that Jim is the leader of the group and the one with strong opinions, whereas little brother Josh is very easy going. Mom [Karen] keeps the boys under control. The rest of the family are also involved in the group with Dad Copenhaver taking care of the equipment and Jimâ€™s wife Angela looking after the business and the trioâ€™s wardrobe.
Working together toward a common goal creates a strong family. Southern Gospel audiences love family groups like The Copenhavers for their rapport and special harmony. â€œWe have found that we relate well to all types of crowds,â€ says Josh, â€œIt probably has a lot to do with the fact that weâ€™re a family and weâ€™re just common people who donâ€™t try to impress or deceive our crowd. The worst thing a group can do is assume their audience is ignorant.â€
Getting to know their audience, building their fan base and growing the ministry has not been an easy road for the trio. â€œLast year at this time we had a team meeting to discuss how we were going to quit singing,â€ says Josh. â€œIt was tough as we had no bookings, no money and no vehicle to travel. Then the Lord opened our eyes to what Ministry in Music was all about. We realized that all things are possible with Him. We have been thanking Him every mile of the way, from there on out. We are thankful that He takes care of His own.â€
The Copenhavers believe that God has been taking care of them since the beginning and they love the ministry, but if they had to give up traveling, they would each be doing something very different. Jim would be coaching football, Josh would be in politics and Karen would be at home with her husband of 33 years. For now however, their life is on the road and they wouldnâ€™t have it any other way. â€œWe believe our ministry is to encourage the saints and point the sinners to the cross. We try to live the public life the same way as we do in private, a life that is God fearing and people loving.â€
This public life has brought its share of tears but also smiles and even embarrassment at times. Karen says, â€œThere was a moment that happened in Knoxville, Tennessee, that we still laugh about. A beautiful lady came up to our table while Josh and Jim were standing side by side. She pointed at them and said, â€˜Are you guys married?â€™ The boys looked at each other and smiled. Jim turned to her, smiled and said, â€˜Not to each other!â€™â€
Interaction with the audience on a one-to-one basis is one of the great characteristics of Southern Gospel. Josh comments on another attribute of this genre, which he says is â€œthe great songwriters that this industry has, like Bill and Gloria Gather, Rodney Griffin, and Squire Parsons. These men and women keep our industry alive. Without a good song, you canâ€™t have a good singer.â€ Joshâ€™s favorite singer is Jay Parrack, while Jim favors Mike Allen. Karen says, â€œLily Weatherford is my favorite. I appreciate how she has been faithful for all these years, and her dedication to sing with her family.â€
As The Copenhaversâ€™ ministry has grown, the Lord has blessed their faithfulness and dedication as well. The trio has had the opportunity to work with some very special people, gentlemen that have modeled Christ and blessed the family. â€œDr. Dan DeHass and Dr. Norm Pratt from Liberty University are two evangelists that we have teamed up with to do weekend revivals,â€ says Karen. â€œThey have given us all a new perspective on ministry and a fresh outlook on life. They have taught us that with God all things are possible!â€
The Copenhavers are traveling farther away from Ohio, but the motto of their home state is their creed as well, as they are living out the truth of endless possibilities with the King of the Universe. Through good times and bad, the family is learning to remain â€˜with Godâ€™ and trust Him for all things. Karen Copenhaver says she is learning at the same time â€œto rest in His grace.â€ She continues, â€œAll things, all things, all things, work together for good to them that love the Lord, to them that are the called according to His purpose! Not our purpose, but His purpose!â€
For more information on The Copenhavers, click on to http://thecopenhavers.com/
Born and raised in southern Ontario, Canada, Lorraine Walker has been interested and involved in Southern Gospel Music since the mid-80â€™s. As part of a ladiesâ€™ trio, she became more familiar with this style of music and the people that made it popular, and began writing occasional articles for a Canadian publication on Southern Gospel.
Known online to her internet friends as â€œCanChikâ€, Lorraine began writing a monthly inspirational article entitled â€œCanChikâ€™s Cornerâ€ for www.johnlanier.com in 2002.Â This column began on www.sgmradio.com in January of 2005, a popular southern gospel music radio and information website which also publishes other features and interviews with her byline.
â€Reality Checkâ€ is a monthly column relating the realities of living every day as child of God. Lorraine welcomes your comments and suggestions, and you can write her at firstname.lastname@example.org