Rush reflects on 50 years in music ministry

Ed RushDemopolis wasn’t unknown to Ed Rush when he and his wife, Bobbie, moved here more than 16 years ago, but it wasn’t home.

He had even brought a youth group and a college ensemble to perform at First Baptist Church.

Now that Rush is retiring as minister of music and senior adult programs at First Baptist, the couple isn’t thinking about living anywhere else.

“All of our friends are here now,” said Rush.

Taking a break from clearing out his office of the accumulation of 50 years in the ministry, Rush talked about his career with First Baptist, his love of composing church music and the joy he found in working with the people of Demopolis.

During his tenure Rush directed three children’s choirs, the Adult Choir, the Celebration Choir, a youth girls ensemble, a handbell group and the Just Older Youth (JOY) Choir.

Not content with those duties, Rush continued to compose music and also directed the community chorus, the Demopolis Singers, for some 12 years.

Then, in his off time, he kept up with his hobbies. Rush began cross-stitching as a stress-reliever while serving a church on Montgomery. When he moved to Demopolis, church member Henry Baxley got him interested in woodworking, a talent he has developed over the years.

His greatest joy since moving here has been “working with the people who are committed to the music ministry and senior adult ministry as I am,” he said.

Among those is pianist Rosalyn Waldrop, whose advice he sought, relied on, and greatly appreciated.

The most challenging thing to him was recruiting new voices “and the fact that we lose so many people to age or moving away.”

Rush began composing church music while still in college and has had some 50 songs published. His first was “In the Stillness” in 1978.

In April of 2010 he conducted one of his popular concerts that featured both choir and orchestra. The program featured a number of his compositions. Guests attending Rush’s retirement reception Feb. 17 received a CD of the concert.

Those choir/orchestra concerts were challenges in themselves, especially in getting the instrumentalists to take part, said Rush. He relied on Joe Ortiguera, a teacher at Montevallo and a violin graduate student at the University of Alabama, who recruited the players. The concerts also featured local instrumentalists.

Through his contacts with other songwriters, Rush was able to host annual Composers Weekends.

“In the world of church music, we had some pretty big names,” he said.

They included Joseph Martin, Mary McDonald, Stan Pethel, Lloyd Larson, Dick and Mel Tunney, Craig Courtney and Dennis and Nan Allen.

Rush is handing over the music ministry to his friend Tim Hall. The two are both members of the Alabama Singing Men and have sung together for many years.

While Rush knew that Hall was one of more than 60 music ministers applying for the position at First Baptist, he had no influence in his selection.

Rush won’t be giving up music once he retires. He plans to continue composing and will sing in the church’s Adult Choir, but he won’t be taking on another music ministry even on a part-time basis.

He still will pursue his other hobbies of cross-stitching and woodworking, and the couple plans frequent visits with their children, Steve and Sherri, and their families.

“We have really enjoyed serving First Baptist and living in Demopolis,” he said. And the couple doesn’t plan to stop now.