Penny Johnson moved to Florida about 5 years ago. The plan was for her family to move with her, but her daughter-in-law got a huge promotion and they stayed. Penny is a musician, but before visiting First, she had a vocal cord injury that required surgery. “I was a trained singer,” she shared. Penny believed at that point in her life she may never sing again.
As she began to settle into life in Florida alone, she did an internet search for a church. “Music and mission were important to me. A church should be more than Sunday morning. I was looking for a church that reached out into the community.”
First was the first church she visited. “I never visited another,” she said. “The first Sunday I came was a Sunday in Advent. The entire service was music. After the service I was sold. The music at First is quite exceptional.”
It wasn’t just the music though; it was the kindness and warmth of the people. “When I was new, I felt awkward going at first. I was used to going to church with my family and I was now going alone,” she shared. “I found that it really didn’t matter though. That first Sunday, a woman in front of me turned around and started talking to me. Before that service even started, I was signed up for the handbell choir. I have a lot of friends that are people I met at the church. When I came here, I didn’t know anyone. I was starting from scratch, but it was easier than I expected because of the church.” God had given Penny a community to surround her and lift up her gifts for ministry.
While things at First were welcoming and she was finding great spiritual growth in the Monday Morning Women’s Bible Study that draws her closer to God, something was still missing. Little by little her voice was coming back, but she missed singing deeply. “I asked Don Cannarozzi if I could try the choir. He said sure come and try. I sat next to him with this injured voice and he kept encouraging me. It was important,” she said through soft tears. “I thought I would never sing again. I can’t do what I used to do, but the fact that I can do some and that I am included in the choir – all professional signers who welcomed me with no judgment – means so much to me.” Now, when Don is off, Penny subs for him. She plays the organ and directs the choir. “I studied music to play for God, so the fact that the church has encouraged me, and that I can share my gifts again means everything to me.”