The celebration at Coon Rapids United Methodist Church Saturday evening was bittersweet.
The Solid Rock Singers, the church’s youth music ministry, marked its 20 anniversary with a home concert performance of its 2011-12 musical complete with a fund-raising spaghetti dinner and silent auction.
But co-founder and co-director Cindi Foster has announced her retirement effective following the summer mission trip.
“It’s time for younger blood to take over,” Foster said.
“And I want to be able to baby sit my grandchild whenever I’m asked.”
Jenni Tanner, who has been co-director with Foster in recent years, will take over as director.
But leaving the program after 20 years will be “bittersweet,” Foster said.
This has been a special week for the church, according to Rev. Mark Miller, pastor.
“We are celebrating 20 years of music ministry by the Solid Rock Singers and this is a wonderful evening,” Miller said.
Foster has given so much to Solid Rock, the youth, the volunteers, the congregations and many other congregations, he said.
To thank Foster, the church hosted a program honoring her Sunday afternoon followed by a reception.
Foster’s time commitment with the Solid Rock Singers has been considerable.
A different musical, running 40 to 50 minutes, is produced each year, meaning lots of rehearsals.
The Solid Rock Singers travel to other churches to present the program and the group sings at the Coon Rapids church once a month – different songs from those in the musical.
The church sanctuary was full for the Solid Rock Singers performance of the 2011-12 musical, “It’s All Because of Jesus.”
According to Foster, the 10 songs in this year’s program were all favorites from prior musicals and woven together to create this year’s production.
The title was apt. “We know that each one of these songs is telling a story of Jesus,” Foster said.
“It’s all because of Jesus that this youth choir sings and praises Him.”
Foster, choir director at Coon Rapids United Methodist Church, and Kari Stilson founded the Solid Rock Singers in 1992 after they found that the then-Kids’ Praise Choir was too big.
They split up the praise choir and created a new choir comprising middle school and high school youth.
According to Foster, the group was initially named the Coon Rapids United Methodist Church Youth Choir, but in the 1993-94 season, the choir’s musical was titled “Let’s Go To The Rock.”
One of the church members created t-shirts for the choir with “Solid Rock Singers” embroidered on them, Foster said.
“The choir morphed into the Solid Rock Singers and the name has stuck,” she said.
That first year 18 youth from sixth through 12th grades registered.
Numbers over the years have ranged from the 80s and 90s to 40 sixth- through 12th-graders, Foster said.
This year’s ensemble has 56 members, about average for recent years, she said.
Many of the participants start in sixth grade and continue to sing with the Solid Rock Singers through high school graduation, Foster said.
Members of the choir don’t have to attend Coon Rapids United Methodist Church, according to Foster.
“We will take anyone,” Foster said.
Indeed, after the Solid Rock Singers has finished performing at a Zimmerman church earlier this year, a girl in the audience came up to Foster and asked to join and the girl, who lives near St. Francis, is now a member, she said.
The Solid Rock Singers don’t just perform at the Coon Rapids church.
They travel to all parts of Minnesota during the year to sing at services at different churches – Cedar, Byron, Aitkin, Prior Lake, Mora, Ogilvie, Zimmerman and Montrose have been on this season’s itinerary.
In the summer the Solid Rock Singers members go on a mission trip to various parts of the country and in two cases abroad.
On the mission trips, the Solid Rock Singers sing – in churches, park, even at an airport, “anywhere that we are asked,” Foster said.
But they also perform community service work, Foster said.
Past mission trips have included East Grand Forks, northern and southern Minnesota, Chicago, Tennessee, North Dakota, New York, Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri and Montana.
Twice Solid Rock Singers members have spent part of their summer at the Miracle Ranch Children’s Home in Valle Las Palmas, Mexico, a longtime mission program of the Coon Rapids United Methodist Church.
Projects in which the group members have participated include building and remodeling, planting and gardening, painting, helping with flood relief and offering vacation Bible schools for local children.
“We have worked on Habitat for Humanity projects on four mission trips,” Foster said.
The summer of 2011, the Solid Rock Singers, along with parents, traveled to the eastern United States, working on projects in Maryland and Philadelphia, Pa., before spending time in New York City, according to Foster.
There were 89 people in the party. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Foster said.
This summer the Solid Rock Singers will be going to Des Moines, Iowa, and Kansas City, Mo., to work on two projects, she said.
Foster will be retiring from the Solid Rock Singers after that trip, she said
But prior to that this spring, the group will be going on a weekend retreat, Foster said.
Members of the 2011-2012 Solid Rock Singers are John Barclay, Amber Barnes, Luke Belting, Noah Belting, Jen Buccellato, Amy Callahan, Audrey Callahan, Steven Clark, Chloe Crawford, Reagan Crawford, Austin Cummings, Cassie deAzevedo, Amos Duckworth Jr., Alyssa Frame, Kelsey Frame, Grace Franta, Nicole Golden, Lynn Hillesheim, Bill Holder, Rebecca Jarson, Kenny Johnson, Alyssa Klindt, Lindsey Koehler, Becky Lamers, Billy Lamers, Joshua Limberg, Payton Lindorff, Ryann Lynch, Jacob Mahoney, Jodi Mahowald, Thomas Mahowald, Ostin Manary, Lee Miller, Juliet Murphy, VeJon Murray, Samantha Ness, Mallyssa Nissen, Kyle Olson, Elizabeth Ostrander, Cara Peterson, Savana Phillips, Anna Ramacher, Alayna Raskie, Marissa Rasmussen, Carolyn Reinhart, Savannah Robertson, Angela Rouch, Kayla Ruf, Kiana Ruf, Natalie Simmons, Cody Simpson, Melanie Simpson, Molly Snell, Sam Snell, Jessica Stevenson and Marc Stevenson.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]