A reflection after the death of Patrinell (Pat) Wright in September 2022, by Mary E. Maltman
One sunny afternoon years ago at the Emergency Feeding Program, Rev. O.J. Moore, the Director at the time stopped by my desk and said, “Mary, please come over to my office for a minute. I think you may have some idea of how to help with a problem.” I walked in to see Patrinell (Pat) Wright – a glorious gospel singer and director of the Total Experience Gospel Choir, sitting in a chair by Rev. Moore’s desk.
Pat explained that the Total Experience Gospel Choir, then composed of 40 children of varying ages and several adult instrumentalists, had been invited to Australia to be contestants in an annual classical music competition. Pat had responded that they were honored, but that their music was gospel, rather than classical. The response was, “We really want you anyway!”
Pat decided to accept the invitation and set about scheduling concerts to fund airfare and hotel space for everyone. As she neared the deadline of July 10, there was a shortage of $8,000. She attempted to get a personal bank loan but was turned down – even though her credit was good, and she held a mortgage at this bank. They were not interested in loaning to an African American woman. The tickets would have to be returned and the pending reservations cancelled.
Rev. Moore turned to me and asked if I could help. I gulped. I was at that time trying to keep The Children’s School afloat. And then, as he wanted me to, I thought of our church. The difficulty was that we were going through a tough patch at church. Two of our three ministers were gone, and the church was in transition. The remaining minister was Pastor Gail Crouch. When she heard of the need — and I’ll never forget it — she said, “Well, I think we might be able to find some money somewhere for this. Invite Pat over, and we will go and talk with the Finance Manager about this emergency.”
We met with the Finance Manager, who was inclined to say no, but Pastor Gail responded that there was money that we could lend, and that we should do so. The Finance Manager wanted the Finance Committee to talk about it at their meeting in two weeks. Pat said it would be way too late by then. I then (with no appreciable assets) asked if it would help if I co-signed the loan document. Pastor Gail asked, “So what would that look like?” We finally worked out an agreement for the loan stating that Pat would borrow $8,000 to be paid back at noon on December 31st, signed by Pat and co-signed by me.
The Total Experience Gospel Choir did travel to the beautiful Opera House in Sydney where they won First Prize in the competition! And Pat Wright walked into our church office on December 31st at noon with a check for $8,000 in hand. The next summer the choir was invited to compete in Germany. This time they raised all but $3,000 and this time they did not need my signature to borrow funds from UCUCC. Although they did not win First Prize, the following summer German choirs came to visit them in Seattle, hosted in local homes. Several families stayed with members of our church, bringing all of us more closely together.
Since then, our church has maintained a connection with Pat and her choir. The Total Experience Gospel Choir performed at events that benefitted projects our church was involved in. Pat Wright placed her grandson in our Child Care Program and in the Children’s School, attending and singing at each Child Care anniversary party, and she has sung and brought her choir to sing in our church services when invited. Although I had not even heard of it then, surely this connection was generated by the mutual love and working together expressed in Ubuntu.