Ministry, Music and Memories
MerleFest is a big part of his ministry, says Roy Dobyns, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Boone, who has devoted many years of service as festival chaplain at the annual event in Wilkes County.
"Being a chaplain has given me the opportunity to meet people in many situations," Dobyns said.
From officiating weddings to making late night hospital visits, to counseling, listening, laughing, crying and praying with festival participants, Dobyns loves being a listening ear and a smiling face.
"I'm happy to be available to assist people in getting the help they need," he said.
While counseling centers at the college and local ministers have provided many services to those people in need, Dobyns said he believes that providing a festival chaplain further indicates the desire of MerleFest leadership to care for the needs of its attendees.
Ministering at MerleFest is something for which he anxiously anticipates from one year to the next.
"One year the theme for MerleFest was 'Music, Moments and Memories.' The theme described what has become for me a celebration of spring and a reunion of sorts," he said.
Highlights of Dobyns' personal celebration include Seldom Scene and Allison Krauss on the Watson Stage, dancing (sort of) with the Duhks and Donna the Buffalo, remembering songs from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from his college days, seeing the Dixie Chicks and Raffi on the Little Pickers Stage, watching his kids develop a fondness for roots music because of Rice, Bush, Rowan, and Nickel Creek, listening to gospel music by Skaggs, Cowan and Gillian Welch, and sneaking off all by hisself to listen to Del McCoury and Ralph Stanley. ..."Those are my "Music, Moments, and Memories," he said.
More than all of that, Dobyns emphasizes is "the reminder that Doc Watson cared for Bill Young, that I get to see the Kruger Brothers and the Shepherds, and that I get to work for B Townes and Ted Hagaman, all the while roaming the grounds of MerleFest with my family."
It was because of his relationship to one of the festival's key organizers, Bill Young, and his wife, Evelyn, that Dobyna became the festival chaplain of MerleFest.
"The Youngs were members of Wilkesboro Baptist Church where I served as the minister of youth. Bill was very proud of the festival and Wilkes Community College and wanted me to love the festival," Dobyns said. "The church had a puppet and clown ministry that became very active in the Little Pickers Area. From my involvement there, and as a gate worker and volunteer with the festival, I was approached by Brenda Shepherd with the idea of festival chaplain."
The ministry first began as a service to the many volunteers and workers, Dobyns said.
"A quiet time on Sunday mornings in the cafeteria with a handful of MerleFest workers evolved into a 'Spirit of Sunday' devotional service for all festival-goers and workers on Sunday mornings at the Creekside Stage. I tell everyone I open for Doc Watson and the Nashville Bluegrass Band," he said.
Having called Western North Carolina home for nearly 25 years, Dobyns came to Boone last September as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Boone.
"The calling of God, the mission heart of the congregation, and the location of the church right on the ASU campus, led my family to come and serve Jesus in this special place," he said.
Before relocating to Boone, Dobyns served as minister with youth at Wilkesboro Baptist Church from 1986-2003, and as minister with students at First Baptist Church Asheville from 2003-09.
"I am very thankful for the opportunity that First Baptist Church of Boone provides for me the opportunity to give back to a place and an event that has so much meaning to me personally," he said.