Honoring Bob Ham
I knew Bob Ham as the choir director at my church (Clay United Methodist in South Bend, Ind.) and a good friend of my dad’s, long before I knew him as the director of Bethel choir. But it was my four years in Concert Choir (2003-2007) under his direction, that left an indelible mark on my life.
Through Bob, I discovered the incredible joy of singing for the glory of God, as an act of worship. I developed confidence in my ability to sing and my faith grew stronger. Yes, there were challenging days and difficult rehearsals — Bob expected and inspired excellence — but it was his intent that made all the difference.
The glory was God’s and not man’s. That’s why we sang.
After each performance, as the audience would applaud, Bob would raise his hand to heaven and nod. To God be the glory.
We began each rehearsal with a devotion and prayer. And I think that spiritual foundation is what drew us together as a family. We worked hard together, worshiped together, lifted one another up. We experienced great joy together. We experienced great loss at the death of a fellow choir member. And Bob held us together.
In his 25 years of teaching at Bethel, he was much more than a professor, choir director and music department chair. He was a mentor, a confidant, a friend and colleague. He was a devoted husband to his wife Marilynn, Bethel’s artist in residence, who taught alongside him throughout his career. He was a loving father to his two children and an example of the Father’s love to countless students who called him family.
The past few years, as he walked the difficult road through cancer diagnosis and treatment, more than 700 friends joined him on the journey through his “Goodness and Mercy Tour” on Facebook. There, he provided updates and always reminded people to pray for others. He would often say that he still felt like “the most blessed man in the world.” The page is filled with tributes and testimonies of Bob’s impact on countless lives.
Bob Ham lived and loved well. And perhaps that is why his loss touches so many in such a profound way. It is difficult to think of singing without him. And yet, I know that though he is no longer with us on this earth — his voice has joined the greatest choir … the heavenly chorus — his earthly voice lives on through those who love him.
One of Bob’s wishes was to have choir alumni join the current Concert Choir in singing “Abide with Me” and “Amen” during his funeral service. Choir alumni can get more information and R.S.V.P at BethelCollege.edu/BobHam.
Read the news release about his passing and view details on his arrangements here.
If you would like to share a memory of Bob, please feel free to do so in the comments section.