“Growing up in the church, you saw them perform,” said Carpenter, 18, of Evans. “I was in awe.”
It was the same choir her father, Marc Carpenter, performed in as a teenager.
Generations of teens have sung about the love of God through Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church’s Love Unlimited Youth Choir.
This month, the group celebrates its 35th anniversary with a reunion celebration and annual homecoming concert, a tradition that welcomes the teens back to Augusta after their summer tour.
In all, 117 singers from 11 high schools will travel with the Love Unlimited tour this summer. They leave Wednesday for Chicago and return June 21, having performed six or seven times at churches in the city and along the way.
Love Unlimited was founded in 1977 by the Rev. Craig Watson. In the years since, the group has traveled through 48 states, Canada, the British Isles, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Romania and Spain.
“We all get on tour buses and go across the nation,” said William Kittle, 18, of Augusta. “It’s the best 10 days of your life. You really get on fire for Christ.”
The group performs a variety of works from classical music to traditional hymns and contemporary praise and worship songs, Kittle said.
“We’re not really performing for the crowd,” Kittle said of Love Unlimited, which sings in worship services at Trinity about once a month. “We’re inviting them to worship with us.”
For the past 13 years, the group has been led by the church’s Minister of Music, the Rev. Danny Key.
“Mr. Danny is the engine behind this thing. He puts his heart out there,” said Luke Reeve, 18, of Martinez. “He’s been awesome.”
Often, Key said, he defers to his students for guidance.
“It’s very student-led,” he said. “I try to stay out of the way as much as possible. They choose all of the songs. They choose the theme. They decide how to worship.”
That’s part of what sets the choir apart, Marc Carpenter said.
“It’s not a show choir. They’re there to lead worship. It’s all about bringing glory to God,” he said. “It blows me away still that this has been going on for 35 years. There are parents who have joined the church because their kids come to LU. It’s totally an outreach.”
While many members of the choir attend Trinity, it’s not required to sing with the choir.
“It brings a lot of kids. It attracts them to this church and builds relationships, even though they don’t go to the same school,” said McKenzie Horseman, 18, of Augusta.
It’s nearly impossible to estimate how many youth have participated in the choir over the past three and a half decades, Key said.
“If I had to guess, I’d say a safe estimate is 2,500,” he said. “It’s really touched a lot of teenagers.”