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Embracing modern technology to reconnect

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Bermuda's lockdown is encouraging even the most seasoned in our faith community to utilise alternate methods of communication in order to sustain their friendships and faith.

This was evident on Saturday, April 11 when a group of singers — all members of The Warrenaires — logged on to Zoom to reconnect with each other.

Local vocalist Warren Williams started it with members of the Seventh-day Adventist choir in the late 1960s.

The Warrenaires recorded albums and toured internationally, and were considered to be among the premier gospel groups of their era.

Although they haven't performed together in recent years, their legacy continues through their children and grandchildren who are now members of such groups as The Southampton Inspiration Choir and Oakwood College's Dynamic Praise; the late Steve Easton, Owen Simons, Canjelae Taylor and former Bermuda Idol Gregory Scott can trace their musical roots back to parents or grandparents who sang in The Warrenaires.

The virtual gathering was organised by Ty-Ron and Fiona Douglas. Their grandmother, Marguerite Bean, is a longtime member of The Warrenaires and the siblings were inspired to help after she lost her “black book” and all her contacts in it.

“I began to reach out to some of her friends and then the idea came to connect a larger nucleus of her social network,” Dr Douglas said. “The Warrenaires is a major foundation of that nucleus.

“Additionally, I was aware that some of the members of The Warrenaires, like all of us, have been dealing with obstacles caused by the coronavirus and social-distancing. I know one member who faithfully visited a spouse at the hospital and could no longer do so at this time. Another group member is navigating transporting a spouse to and from dialysis.

“All of them are from an era of social closeness. We became family over the years. And while my generation of Warrenaire affiliates can remain in contact via social media, reduced mobility — for some — and now social-distancing make connecting more difficult for The Warrenaires these days.”

Because the gospel group held their weekly rehearsal on Sabbath afternoons for decades, it was decided a Saturday would be an appropriate day for the Zoom meeting.

More than 35 members joined in.

“I reached out to my sister, Fiona Douglas, CEO of Care Connect Bermuda, to partner on a vision and venture to connect The Warrenaires,” Dr Douglas said. “She provides support to families to help them take care of their ageing loved ones and family members in transition. Her company co-sponsored the ‘meet up' and co-ordinated and paid for the online platform we used.”

It was the first time many of The Warrenaires had used Zoom. Both he and his sister were thrilled to see how much joy the virtual reunion brought during this time of isolation.

“It was beautiful to see their faces light up as they saw their friends, sang, told jokes and reminisced. It was inspiring to see them engage and embrace a new era of technology with the reward of connecting with a group that helped sustain their faith for generations. Some of The Warrenaires shed tears of joy as they saw their friends.

“The virtual meeting lasted well over two hours, though it was only scheduled to be one hour. We began with prayer, roll call and check in. We shared scripture — and, of course, they sang! We initially tried singing along with audio recordings however the best singing experience, fittingly, was when Sherman Swan [a group director] pulled out a pitch pipe and had the group sing a cappella as they typically did over the years.”

While the shelter-in-place order has presented many challenges and inconveniences to the faith community, this meeting of The Warrenaires proved that there are still many opportunities to commune together in the spirit.

Dr Douglas took to his Facebook page to share the experience with others who might be inspired to do something similar.

“The Warrenaires were part of my village. The virtual ‘meet up' was a way to give back. But in truth, I get something from seeing these living legends reconnect. I may live in Missouri, but there is a Bermudian boy that will always be inside me.

“This gathering and the smiles that it instigated are proof that laughter really does do the soul good — like medicine and good music, good friends and a great God, it can sustain you through every season of life and every obstacle, including the coronavirus lockdown.”

Ty-Ron Douglas, PhD, is an author and an associate professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia. For more information visit DrTyDouglas.com or follow @DrTyDouglas on Twitter. For more information on Care Connect Bermuda contact Fiona Douglas on 519-1561, or info@careconnectbda.com

Hitting the web: The Warrenaires used the group-chat app Zoom so they reconnect during this time of isolation because of the Covid-19 outbreak (Photograph supplied)
Click to connect: Juanita Crockwell chats with members of gospel group, The Warrenaires on Zoom - the only way available right now because of the lockdown (Photograph supplied)
Screen time: The Warrenaires in action virtually on Zoom (Photograph supplied)
Ray Simons, seated, and son Owen were part of a virtual reunion of members of The Warrenaires, a once popular gospel group (Photograph supplied)
Ed Smith chats with members of The Warrenaires on Zoom (Photograph supplied)
One of The Warrenaires' albums. The group was formed in the late 1960s by singer Warren Williams (Photograph supplied)
Ray Simons connects with former members of the Seventh-day Adventist gospel group, The Warrenaires (Photograph supplied)

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Published April 25, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 26, 2020 at 8:40 am)

Embracing modern technology to reconnect

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