Auburn church organist blooms where he’s planted

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With his seeds of faith, Mitchell Clyde Thomas, 50, of Durham has bloomed where he’s planted.

Introduced to the United Methodist Church of Auburn by one of his best friends, church organist Norma Rice Gould, Thomas began his journey 28 years ago after graduating from the University of Maine at Farmington.

“My whole life took off right on this amazing path that led me here after I graduated from college in 1984,” he said.

Thomas became the children’s choir director at the church and was the children’s choir and music director at Camp Mechuwana in Winthrop, the Methodist Church summer camp, for the past 30 years.

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In 1984 Thomas also became a delegate to the Methodist Mission Board of Global Ministries, a service that has afforded him great opportunities.

“I’ve traveled around the world, especially in Latin America,” he said. He has also served as the music director for the United Methodist Church of New England’s annual conference.

“The original plan was for me to go to seminary . . . I’ve had opportunities within the church as a layperson and missionary to do a lot more. I also have served for the past five years as the organist for Calvary United Methodist Church (in Lewiston),” he said. “We have expended (at Park Avenue) to a Saturday 4 o’clock service with lots of fun alternative music with singing and worship. It’s a nice part of my work.” He is on staff as music director at his church.

His friend Norma also introduced him to the Community Little Theater.

“I grew up in North Jay, 45 minutes north of here in a little village church. I’d never been to a Little Theater event,” he said.

Thomas auditioned for a part and did not get it, but tried again and was successful.

For 28 years, he has been a fixture at CLT and has done everything from starring in shows, to directing, working behind the scenes and being the artistic director. Currently he is volunteering as public relations director.

Though Thomas is on staff at his church, he does have a “regular” job. “By day, I am the communications director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southern Maine,” he said. He is also an adjunct professor at Central Maine Community College, primarily teaching writing.

“Because of my jobs, I have been able to take some side adventures that let me step outside of those jobs,” he said. “I have been an artist in residence for L/A Arts and every other week I’m somewhere performing at a nursing home, grange meeting or lodge meeting. Somebody’s got me doing something as an after-dinner entertainer or doing a program. I love that!”

Mitchell has been inspired to write music. Along with his friend Jeff Munson, he has written musicals for the youths at camp in the summer.

“He’s a lyricist and I get to do the music, to put music to his wonderful lyrics. A lot of things have happened to reflect upon as a volunteer and in my work . . . I am blessed.”

Among the blessings Thomas counts as his greatest are his two children, a daughter age 11 and a son who is 9.

“Both children, who are also musically talented, are very active in their school in Durham. Both love music and theater and we have already done shows together. ”

Thomas said he’s privileged.

“I have been given gifts by God, not only in music, but to understand and relate to people who struggle . . . I’ve never been poor or hungry in my life, but I’ve been places where I’ve met people in those situations. I really believe being as privileged as I am, it’s my job. If I cannot help people directly. . . it’s my job to connect people to how they can get help.”

For Thomas, sharing the gifts of his music, his stories through what he writes, and his service is, as he said, “(Something) I want to do till the day I die.”

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