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Musicians form Instruments of Peace

Musicians provide varied music genre and music relevant to worship theme

By Mary Stamp

Anna and Don Jenkins have woven music through their 40 years of life together, inspired by their families as they grew up.

anna and don jenkins

Anna and Don Jenkens sang and accompanied singing on harp and guitar for Annual Meeting 2014 at University Congregational UCC in Seattle, one of several churches they provide music for in the Seattle area.

For 10 years, they were involved in the multicultural Bethany UCC in Seattle, and while they were there, they developed Instruments of Peace.  That group brings together musicians, including their son, daughter and son-in-law, and friends, to share gospel, jazz, folk, Celtic, classical, African drumming and world music in spiritual settings.

When Anna and Don needed to live next door to her mother in Kirkland nine years ago, in the house where she grew up.

Instruments of Peace goes into different churches to relieve the choir for a day.

Anna grew up in Kirkland UCC. They lived since 1985 in Issaquah, where they attended Pine Lake Presbyterian Church for nine years.  Then they moved to attend Plymouth when their children Chris and Jennifer were in high school so they could be involved in the youth group there.  They continued to live in their home in the woods in Issaquah.

When they began attending Plymouth Congregational UCC, it was beginning to discern ways to help Beacon Ave. UCC, which became Bethany.

“We wanted to be involved in the multicultural experience, so we attended both,” she said.

They were members of Bethany for 11 years.  Don became chorister, which meant he announced when to stand and sit, organized musicians and worked up songs.

“Each week was spontaneous,” she said.  “The church had an organ and piano, but no organist or pianist, so we did church without those instruments, unless we had a guest.”

Don brought in different multicultural groups to create a unique worship experience each week.  Different people became regulars, including some pianists.

Among the regulars was the Frank Clayton Ensemble, who played, as they did at the 2014 Pacific Northwest Conference Annual Meeting at University Congregational UCC in Seattle.

Now the Jenkins attend Kirkland, which has a music program.  They provide special music three times a year. 

They go to other churches, including Rainier Beach United Methodist Church about four times a year, Plymouth several times, including a Christmas Eve Wee Worship, and Spirit of Peace in Issaquah, University and Fauntleroy.

Anna was a music major in college, graduating in 1974 from Washington State University and teaching music a year at Hoquiam High School in Aberdeen.  She and Don married in 1975, having met when asked to sing at a wedding.

Don, a 1972 graduate in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, lived in Portland when they met.  He retires in July 2015 from work in insurance and risk management.

They lived four years in Beaverton, Ore., and returned to Seattle for four years, then to Vienna, Va., for four years, coming back and living in Issaquah.  For the most part, they have attended UCC churches.

He grew up in a Freewill Baptist Church in Newburn, N.C.  His mother was church pianist, and his family was musical, singing and playing instruments.  Every year, their children joined them for family gatherings in North Carolina, and sang with six other cousins.

Don had studied voice in college and was in the choir and men’s glee club.  He has played guitar for 40 years, developing different finger patterns—finger picking and strumming. 

Anna sings, has played piano and since 2001 mostly plays the Celtic harp.

anna jenkins
Anna Jenkins arranges music for harp accompaniment.

She meets with 12 women in a harp circle and arranges music for it, and has published a harp duet music book.

“I arrange music for the harp, because music for it looks like piano music, but it sounds muddy on the harp.  I listen to the overtones as I play and decide the sounds I want.

When they take a piece they decide what form it will take, who will sing and when, and how instruments will support it.

“It takes a while to pull together a piece for a performance,” she said.  “For congregational singing, the harp usually plays the melody and the guitar the harony.”

The name, Instruments of Peace, goes back to the prayer of St. Francis, “Make me an instrument of your peace.”

It comes, too, from Anna’s use of harp music for healing and transitions, often played at the bedside of someone who is dying.  For three years, she played for hospice patients at Swedish Hospice. 

Every week at Covenant Shores Retirement Community at Mercer Island, she plays therapeutic music at the health center and reflections unit for people who are memory challenged.  At the latter, the music is interactive, geared to stimulate memories and discussion.

Occasionally she plays for someone dying in a hospice setting—

“The idea is that harp music brings peace,” she said.  “The strings’ vibrato sends vibrations people feel,” said Anna, who has taught 10 harp students in her home since 2006.

When they sing for commercial enterprises, they charge.  When they sing for congregations, they accept an honorarium.  Some places they play for no charge.

Their music ranges from sacred to secular and includes many folk genre, hymns, Celtic, old time fiddle tunes, Civil War tunes, waltzes and some country.

“Our musical experience is intertwined with our faith,” said Anna, telling of a poster that says:  “It’s All About the Music.”

“We worship through singing,” she said.  “Before a service, we work with the pastor to put the service together, brainstorming about how to integrate music with the message, choosing the right words, tempo and rhythm to support the service and sermon.

“We weave what we do with what is happening in worship so all is connected,” she said.  “The top messages we share are about love and peace.”

For information, call 206-914-2662 or 498-2900 or email                                               


Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News Copyright © December 2014




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