Song Garden Music Group, the Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet, and Mennonites in Southern Gospel

Reading the Singing News concert calendar reveals that Mennonites occasionally host Southern Gospel concerts, especially in Pennsylvania and occasionally in other states.

One group that has had a particularly noticeable number of dates at Mennonite-sponsored events is the Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet. This isn’t the only connection that the Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet had in Mennonite circles. The group’s founding member, tenor Robbie Hiner, partnered with Nick Bruno, Mennonite pastor and evangelist Dale Keffer, and Dale’s brother Lynn and sister Marilyn to found Song Garden Music Group. (Incidentally, this information is on Song Garden’s home page.)

But I’m wondering if the original Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet had yet another Mennonite connection. The cut of his suit on the OTGHQ debut album cover makes me wonder if Christian Davis is or was a Mennonite. (EDIT, 8/3/11: Broken link removed.)


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19 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Mainstream Mennonites (there is an overwhelming variety of Mennos) can’t be distinguished by clothing, and no conservative Mennonite would be caught dead in a suit like that!

  2. I don’t know whether or not they would be deemed conservative or not, but I’ve seen photos of quite a few Mennonite quartets (in places like the GVS catalog) dressed in suits that are essentially button-all-the-up suits, like Christian’s in that photo. Christian, incidentally, is second from the right.

  3. That suit is a common cut in all circles. It’s just a high collar suit – it doesn’t button all the way to the top. My college choir had a cut of suit like that one year – and I sang in the Black Gospel choir in my college.

    I believe Christian Davis is Baptist – especially with his involvement with Jerry Falwell in the past.

  4. Thanks, Chris. 🙂

    I’d like to try singing Black Gospel some time–but even if I can sing it right I just don’t think I could ever look right. 😉

  5. Christian Davis was saved and baptised at Tabernacle Baptist Church, a conservative Southern Baptist church in Macon, GA. He remains a Southern Baptist but Christian and his family are personal friends with Pastor Dale Keffer and his family. Bro. Keffer is pastor of the Providence Mennonite Church in Virginia Beach, VA.

  6. Mennonite are a step away from the Amish people.
    Mennonite people are very strong supporters of SG.
    You can tell a Mennonite or Amish person by more then what they wear.
    By the way, why are we having a disussion thesee trying days for the Mennonite and Amish people because of recent events in Amish country in PA?

  7. As to why we are having this discussion, it was prompted on my part by the change of management in Song Garden Music Group. Let me make clear that I do not believe that a discussion about Mennonites in Southern Gospel is derogatory in any way. I have not, to my knowledge, insulted them in any way.

    Incidentally, I think it must be the less traditional Mennonites that listen to Southern Gospel. We have more traditional Mennonites in our area, and I haven’t yet seen them at Southern Gospel concerts.

    In my area, most Mennonites drive normal vehicles, but there is one Mennonite church where they only drive black cars and one group of local Mennonites–and yes, they are Mennonites–that drives buggies. We also have Amish in my area. I am fully aware of the differences between the groups and had no intention of confusing them.

  8. The thread was going in that direction. You are correct in saying the less traditional Mennonites attend SG Mennonites.
    We have seen Mennonites at sevral events in PA, Winchester,VA, Singing in the Sun, several Gaither concerts, and Gatlinburg Gatherings just to name a few.

  9. Rest assured that I will delete every comment that bashes our brothers and sisters in Christ who attend Mennonite and Amish churches. I won’t let the comments go in that direction.

    I don’t believe there are any non-traditional Mennonites in my area. If there are, then they must not listen to Southern Gospel!

  10. What I meant in my first comment, was that conservative Mennonites who wear plain suits do so to try to be as “un-stylish” as possible, basically. And Christian’s suit was way too stylish for a conservative Mennonite!

    I would say that in general, the more traditional/conservative Mennonites are the ones into Southern Gospel. The liberal/mainstream ones are usually into CCM/P&W and the like. The exception to this would be the most conservative Mennonites, SG would be a little too “worldly” for them, they generally stick to just traditional a cappella music.

    And yes, I am a Mennonite! Towards the conservative end. Even I find all the varieties of Mennonites confusing!

  11. I suppose this question is for both Tom and Michael Davis: Do the sort of Mennonites that like Southern Gospel generally wear head coverings?

    All the Mennonites in my area (or, at any rate, all the people I know who I know are Mennonite) wear head coverings. I suppose it’s quite possible that Mennonites without head coverings show up to area concerts, and I didn’t know it.

  12. Yes, I would say, to both counts.

  13. All right. That’s interesting. 🙂

  14. I am certainly no expert on the Mennonite faith but I do have some information. While attending a concert at Pastor Keffer’s church in VA, I noticed some of the ladies had head coverings with straps while some did not. I asked Pastor Keffer about this and he told me they are from different branches of the Mennonite faith. I also have some Mennonite friends in Indiana and they do not wear any head coverings.

  15. I am certainly no expert on the Mennonite faith but I do have some information. While attending a concert at Pastor Keffer’s church in VA, I noticed some of the ladies had head coverings with straps while some wore head coverings without straps. I asked Pastor Keffer about this and he told me they are from different branches of the Mennonite faith. I also have some Mennonite friends in Indiana and they do not wear any head coverings.

  16. Since we are doing a good job on this thread, i offer the following link that sums up the Amish and Mennonite lifestyle running the more conservative/tradidtional to the less conservative/tradidtional. It just like us in SG regarding the versions of the Bible from King James to “we won’t go there, right now. More women with more head covering means more traditional and men with longer hair are more traditional.
    http://www.amish-heartland.com/?pathToFile=%2F%2Farticles%2F-Amish+Culture%2F&file=hats.txt&article=1

  17. Very interesting. That has to be about the only American subculture where longer hair on a man means you are more traditional!

  18. Just to clarify, the longer hair thing (which I’ve never heard before) is definitely Amish only. Conservative Mennonites take an rather dim view of long hair on a man.

  19. Tom i correct.