Written by Wendy Ledbetter, Mt. Bethel Baptist Church, Arkadelphia
It began with a birthday present and has grown into a group that gathers each week for fellowship and music.
Leslie Fite bought her daughter, Harley Grace, a ukulele for her birthday, hoping to spark an interest in learning to play. Fite plays several instruments – but not the ukulele. She knows enough about music in general to get Harley started.
A few days later, Harley could pluck out a song and Fite did what proud moms do – posted a video on Facebook. The Fites attend Mt. Bethel Baptist Church near Arkadelphia, and the mom and daughter got the expected applause from friends and church family. Then Fite got an odd request. A couple of the church members had ukuleles of their own and wanted to learn to play. Asked why she agreed to give lessons to the group, she said it was simple – they are her fellow church members, “and they asked.”
Soon, a few people began gathering before church on Sunday evening to play around with the ukulele. That group grew as several members purchased a ukulele in order to participate. Because they were all ladies, they adopted the name “Ukuladies.” They play specials occasionally for church and tease each other that they will be going on tour soon.
Darlene Fendley already had a ukulele, a Christmas gift. She said she was excited to learn with Fite and the others. She said Fite makes their lessons fun and that each lady involved has come to love the group. For Fendley the Ukuladies fill a goal she has had for the small church. “I always wanted a choir,” she said. “This allows us to show our love for Jesus through music.”
There is of course the lure of playing an instrument as one reason some of them participate. Pauline Wrinkle did not have a ukulele when the group began gathering, so she bought one. She enjoys playing, but there’s more to it than that. “It’s a way to spread the word of God,” she said. “It’s another way to praise.”
Lacy Murphy said she has enjoyed the learning process. Aside from learning to play and the opportunity to praise through music, she enjoys the time she spends with the rest of the members. And her advice for anyone who has been considering forming some sort of group? “Don’t think about it,” she said. “Just do it.”
The church services can be found on Facebook at “The exciting Mt. Bethel Baptist Church.”