MADRID – As the bell rang in the church belfry the evening of July 17, 57 worshipers lifted their voices to the strains of “Come to the Church in Wildwood,” traditionally the first song sung at gatherings in Reeds Mill Church

At five miles off Route 4, the old church sits quietly off Reeds Mill Road just at the edge of the wildwood. With no electric lights, Gale Plog Witherall, who was born and raised in Madrid, led the congregation in old favorites like “How Great Thou Art” and “Jesus Loves Me,” sung from the hymnals by the light of the gas lamps (and battery-operated flashlights, as needed).

People travel from as far as Farmington and Oquossoc to participate. One woman, who was visiting the area last year from the state of Washington, returned this year. “When I went home, I sang Come to the Church in Wildwood’ at my home church because it touched my heart so much when I was here. I wouldn’t miss this,” she said.

The hymn sing always concludes with everyone standing hand in hand in a circle, singing the “Lord’s Prayer.” Evelyn Norton, Kingfield, signs the words. Organizers say anyone who missed the July hymn sing will have another opportunity to hear Roy Kelley, Phillips, play the old pump organ at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11.

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