|Randles leaving FBC after 25 years as music minister|
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
July 28, 2006 -- In the mountains around Gatlinburg, Tenn., in 1981, Fred Randles received a phone call from a friend, a Baptist preacher, who had just accepted a job leading First Baptist Church of Sulphur Springs.
In that call, Randles was asked if he would like to come to Texas. His reply was that he and wife, Jane, were happy where they were. That friend said he would call back in a couple of weeks, but instead called a few days later.
The rest, as they say, is history.
On Sunday, July 30, Fred Randles will retire after having served as minister of music at FBC for 25 years.
During his tenure as minister of music, the music ministry at First Baptist has grown to involve more than 700 people, ages 2 through senior adults.
Randles has received certificates of appreciation from four presidents of the United States, U.S. Congress, and governments of Cozumel, Mexico, the Bahamas and the entertainment division of Disney World.
His youth choirs have toured worldwide, with performances across America, in Ireland, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Bahamas and on several cruise ships.
The youth choir has also been seen on national television on "Good Morning America" and "The Early Show" on CBS.
The Silvertone Choir of senior adults, under Randles' direction, has recorded for Benson Music Company of Nashville in the church.
After bringing an entire recording studio to Sulphur Springs, more than 80 Silvertone Choir members were sequestered to add their talents to music already recorded with the lead vocals, something that required the use of headphones.
"We had 85 senior adults in there with head sets," Randles said. "I wish I had a picture of that — it was a wonderful experience."
The senior choir has also premiered musicals for various writers and producers at conventions and conferences. The Silvertone Choir has sung at conferences in Glorieta, N.M., Ridgecrest, N.C., and Williamsburg, Va.
Randles called the Sanctuary Choir at First Baptist "incredible" because of its consistency, dedication, the commitment to the church and the three worship services each Sunday.
During his 25 years at First Baptist, Randles has conducted, sang or did both at funeral services for more than 1,000 people, and officiated, sang or did both at wedding ceremonies for more than 200 couples.
"One really sweet thing to me is that some of these kids are coming back Sunday night," he said. "I call [them] my kids who now are serving the Lord in various places and various ministries who grew up here and grew up through the youth choirs and many of them are coming back Sunday night."
He'll also be coming back to the church to perform a wedding next week. Randles said he would feel a bit strange because he would no longer have the office he has occupied for most of the past quarter of a century.
"We built this building in 1984, this and other parts of the church," he said. "Nobody has been in this office but me -- this has always been my office and until they call somebody to be minister of music it will be really unusual."
He said he has also been involved since the beginning of the North East Texas Symphony Orchestra. Randles said he, along with Sarah Smith, Scott York and others from Texas A&M University-Commerce, created the symphony several years ago.
The first concerts by the newly-formed symphony were first heard at First Baptist Church, and with the help of many people and organizations, has grown significantly.
Randles has served the community in many capacities to lead musically and provide music and sound for county-wide services for troops, Dairy Festival, area worship services and opening ceremonies for baseball and the annual Hopkins County Memorial Hospital Lights of Life lighting.
What does the future hold for the retiring music minister?
"We have no plans to leave Sulphur Springs," he said. "We plan to spend a little more time in Wichita Falls."
Randles and his wife, Jane, have one daughter, Natalie, who is married to Darren Brown and live in Wichita Falls.
With one granddaughter and another on the way, Randles said he was sure to be spending much more time with the grandchildren as he ventures into retirement.
"My wife and I will have an opportunity to spend time in the mountains which we love around Gatlinburg and travel a little more," he said. "We've traveled a lot, but many times we traveled with 90 to 100 teen-agers."
On Wednesday morning, surrounded by packing boxes and 25 years worth of memories, Fred Randles said his pending retirement presented some melancholy moments.
"I have loved what I have done, I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have done in these years," he said. "So, as I think about those things, it gets melancholy."
First Baptist Church will have a celebration of the ministry of Rev. Fred Randles at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in the church sanctuary. The sanctuary choir and orchestra will present a mini-concert of favorite songs.
Everyone in the community is invited to attend and participate in the celebration.