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Salvation Army minister gets ready to rock

The 53-year-old Salvation Army minister has been playing guitar for 35 years, and he showed off his chops Friday night at the opening night for Jam for the Lamb, a Christian coffeehouse...

By Alex Ginsberg

Maj. Gerald Gray just might be the funkiest minister in Ridgewood.

The 53-year-old Salvation Army minister has been playing guitar for 35 years, and he showed off his chops Friday night at the opening night for Jam for the Lamb, a Christian coffeehouse on the second floor of the Salvation Army Ridgewood Community Center on Cypress Hills Street in Ridgewood.

Gray hoped to attract the spiritually curious from around the area and use the open mic night to introduce them to the Salvation Army.

“We’re just trying to get people who are searching and questioning,” he said. “We’re hoping that if they decide to search, this in the place they do it.”

About 40 people attended Friday’s event, at which Gray performed with several the musicians with whom he regularly jams. The evening also featured Messengers of Hope, a 10-piece band organized through the nearby Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church.

Gray’s interest in music, especially rock, blues and gospel, dates back even further than his entry into the ministry 25 years ago. He has organized informal music events such as this one at many of his previous posts, including Salem, Mass. and Kingston, N.Y., and at several spots around his home state of Ohio. He and his wife, Maj. Mary Sue Gray, have been in Ridgewood for nearly two years, but spent the first several months doing emergency and volunteer work at Ground Zero in Manhattan.

“We didn’t really feel like we got caught up until that first year was over,” Gray said.

Last week, in a spare room on the second floor of the Salvation Army center, surrounded by amplifiers, microphones and speakers, Gray outlined his ambitions for Jam for the Lamb.

“What I’d really like to do is have it be not only for Christian musicians but for any kind of Christian artists,” said Gray who wore a black T-shirt with “John 3:16” emblazoned in large white letters.

He included dancers, visual artists and even stand-up comedians (provided the materials is clean) among his descriptions. Coffee, doughnuts, popcorn and other snacks will be provided free of charge — although a donations plate will make the rounds.

The Salvation Army has maintained a presence in Ridgewood since 1887 (though not at the same location) and currently offers a range of services from its Cypress Hills Street location. The staff of about 10 people work to provide food assistance and counseling for those in need, a Jolly Seniors club, a women’s group and regular Sunday services. Gray hopes to establish a youth group focusing on teens.

The Salvation Army is a Protestant group similar to Methodists, but Gray said denominations meant little to him.

“Our main goal is to praise God,” he said. “We’ll all just be Christians in heaven.”

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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