Every year, the Rock Hill Ecumenical Chorale chooses someone to honor during its Christmas concert, Sunday night's "A Tapestry of Carols."
Explaining the criteria for the decision, Dr. Dorothy J. Killian of Herman Presbyterian Church U.S.A. said that person has to embody values of faithfulness, service, commitment and love; someone who is meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart and righteous.
Their choice was Brother David Boone, a man who has enriched the Rock Hill community since he arrived at St. Mary's Catholic Church in 1958.
Boone, 78, held his head high and smiled as the chorale, led by director Jeffery Sligh, brought the Christmas spirit alive with classics like "O Holy Night," "Christ is Come" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
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The people packed inside Oakland Baptist Church Sunday night offered Boone a standing ovation as Killian presented him with a plaque.
Boone's decision was to live a life of sacrificial service to God, and all of Rock Hill is the beneficiary, she said.
"Rock Hill was struggling with integration, poverty and strife," she said. "It was trying to find its way. ... His presence was immediately felt."
An advocate for Rock Hill's poor and minorities since he moved here from Kentucky in the late 1950s, Boone ran a credit union for blacks out of St. Mary's Catholic Church for 30 years. He supported integration in the 1960s and helped black Protestant clergy and the NAACP organize and carry out a boycott of segregated city buses. He also petitioned for poor families to get water and sewer services.
Before the concert went into full swing, Boone said he didn't feel retired. He still volunteers at the soup kitchen he helped found, is a member of the Martin Luther King Task Force and the Christian Educators Association International, serves on the board of directors of Carolina Community Actions and is treasurer and secretary for the local branch of the NAACP.
"I'm very honored and humbled," he said. "My purpose is to hope some people will step forward and take over and do volunteer work. It is much needed."
"I love my work," he said in accepting the plaque. "It's been a labor of joy for all of these years."
The chorale is composed of more than 40 members from 12 churches: St. Mary's, Mt. Prospect Baptist, Freedom Temply Ministry, First Presbyterian Church USA, Tirzah ARP Church, Unity Life and Oakland Baptist, Hermon Presbyterian Church USA, Epiphany Lutheran, St. Anne's Catholic, Pleasant Ridge Baptist and Church of God of Prophecy.
They wasted no time welcoming the crowd with a rendition of "Christmas Joy."
From then on, the crowd was enraptured, clapping hands and mouthing the words. The evening's concert had many highlights:
The church shook during "O Come, O Come, Emanuel" when the choir belted out, "Rejoice!" The crowd clapped furiously during the cover of Kirk Franklin's "Joy" and a collection of "Jesus, O What a Wonderful Child," "Emanuel," "The First Noel," "Away in a Manger" and "Do You Heart What I Hear?" with soloist Karen Howze, a mezzo-soprano from St. Mary's.
Iris Rose, a soprano with First Presbyterian Church USA, brought the crowd to its feet with her solo on "Sweet Little Jesus Boy." So did the instrumental version of "Silent Night" from the Plair Ensemble.
After the concert, Rev. William P. Ferguson of Mt. Prospect Baptist thanked Boone for being the "living example of what it means to live the Christian life."
Father Agustin Guzman, parish administrator with St. Mary's, urged everyone to follow that example by "addressing injustice and changing it" and "rejoicing heartily in the Lord."
It was the first chorale concert for Christian Jones, who came to support a friend in the choir. She brought her friend's two daughters, 6-year-old Jenae and 5-year-old Jennelle Horton.
"I thought it was wonderful," she said. "I really enjoyed myself, and I'll definitely be coming again."
She also appreciated the "oneness of community" the chorale brings about, with members of all denominations coming together.
Chorale member Caroline Webb has been a part of it since it began about 15 years ago.
She's also a member of St. Mary's and has been a fan of Boone.
"He's wonderful," she said. "I enjoy him. He's inspired me."