This year marks the 125th anniversary of St. John United Church of Christ in Collinsville, Illinois. Reverend Marvin L. Morgan, interim senior pastor, will kick-off this year-long celebration with a jazz concert featuring Reverend Dwight Andrews of First Congregational Church in Atlanta, who will perform with Cliff Aerie and the Oîkos Ensemble. St. John’s Chancel Choir will serve as the jazz chorus for this special event.
The celebratory festivities get started 7 p.m. Friday, March 29 in the sanctuary of the church, located at 307 West Clay St. in Collinsville.
The Reverend Dwight Andrews is professor of Music Theory and African American Music at Emory University. He is the pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Atlanta. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, the Yale Divinity School, and Yale University. As a saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist, Andrews has appeared on over 25 jazz and creative music recordings with a wide array of artists, including Wadada Leo Smith, Jay Hoggard, Anthony Davis, and Geri Allen.
He is also known for his collaborations with playwright August Wilson and director Lloyd Richards, having served as musical director for the Broadway productions of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Seven Guitars,” and the Broadway revival of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S. Dutton.
In addition, Andrews provided the music direction for the Broadway revival production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, and Audra McDonald. His film credits include “The Old Settler” starring Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen, “The Piano Lesson” with Alfre Woodard, HBO’s “Miss Evers' Boys” and the PBS documentaries “W.E.B. Dubois: A Biography in Four Voices” and “Homecoming: The Plight of Black Farmers in Georgia.”
Andrews has served as distinguished visiting scholar of the arts at Spelman College and was the inaugural Quincy Jones Visiting Professor of African American Music at Harvard University. He has also taught at Rice University and the Yale University School of Music. Andrews is currently working on a manuscript on the intersection of spirituality and jazz. The Jazz Journalists Association named Andrews as the 2018 Jazz Hero – an advocate, altruist, activist, aider and abettor of jazz who has had a significant impact in his local community.
Rev. Clifford Aerie is the founding director of the Oîkos Ensemble. A musician, storyteller, composer, playwright, actor, director, author, photographer and media producer, Aerie has spent a lifetime exploring the adventurous terrain of creativity. At the heart of his art and ministry he is a storyteller inviting others to embark on the spiritual journey of discovering the imaginative landscape of the soul.
He has pastored five congregations, founded an experimental arts ministry, worked as a media producer, consultant and was the minister for Special Events, Creativity and the Arts for the United Church of Christ national offices. He has acted and directed Off-Broadway and produced television specials nationally and locally.
His first love is jazz. He led his first jazz worship service in 1971. He established a jazz vespers series in Binghamton, New York which is now in its 16th year. He has been acknowledged as being in the vanguard of the jazz liturgical movement. For the past seven years he and the Oîkos Ensemble have led more than 300 innovative jazz vesper services, concerts and play-shops at faith communities and multi-cultural gatherings around the country.
St. John UCC has a rich history of serving the Collinsville community. Since its founding in 1894, this congregation has been unshakable in its faith and to its mission of extraordinary community service. The 125 years of service is a testament to the work done throughout the years which has had a positive impact on the parishioners of the church as well as the larger community through outreach efforts.
Tickets for the jazz concert, the first of several anniversary events and a fundraiser to support the 2019 capital campaign, can be purchased from the church office for $50. Contact the office for details at (618) 344-2526. For a list of quarterly anniversary events, visit www.stjohneucc.org .