CST Trustee Steve Horswill-Johnston Recognized for Film on African-American Sacred Music.
CST TRUSTEE STEVE HORSWILL-JOHNSTON RECOGNIZED FOR FILM ON AFRICAN-AMERICAN SACRED MUSIC
On Thursday, April 3, 2014, Claremont School of Theology (CST) Trustee Steve Horswill-Johnston was presented with a DeRose-Hinkhouse Award for excellence in religious communications and public relations at a ceremony held in Nashville, TN.
The ceremony took place at The Inn at Opryland as part of the annual convention of the Religion Communicators Council. Horswill-Johnston was recognized for “Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice: Preserving the Gift of Black Sacred Music,” a short film he directed and produced for the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) of The United Methodist Church (UMC). He accepted the award alongside his GBOD colleague Carolyn Dandridge.
“Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice” was produced in support of The Africana Hymnal Project, an initiative of the UMC to study and connect with the worship history of North American Christians of African descent. The film, narrated by the Academy-Award nominated actress Alfre Woodard, traces the history of African-American sacred music and how that history is being kept alive through worshipping communities today. Several different forms of sacred music are featured in the film including the Ring Shout, Singing and Praying Bands, Long-Meter Hymns, and Negro Spirituals.
To produce the film, Horswill-Johnston and his crew visited United Methodist churches in Georgia, Maryland, and South Carolina where these oldest musical forms of worship are being passed down to future generations. Among the Methodist leaders interviewed for the film is The Rev. Joseph Lowery, renowned civil rights leaders and third President of the Southern Christian Leadership Council who delivered the benediction at Barack Obama’s first Presidential Inauguration in 2008.
“Reflect, Reclaim Rejoice” has drawn high praise from members of the CST faculty. The film resonated personally with Bishop Charles Wesley Jordan, CST’s Bishop in Residence. “The film carried me to remember my childhood Sunday morning worship experience,” says Bishop Jordan. “The choir would process marching and swaying, singing the same hymn. It was ‘All Hail the power of Jesus' name, let angels prostrate fall.’ These words of affirmation and thanksgiving were also the assurance that God was able to make a way out of no way in the struggles of the day to day.”
For Jack Jackson, E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor of Evangelism, Mission, and Global Methodism, the film serves as a powerful reminder of the historical role that African-American sacred music has played in inspiring social change in the church and beyond. “These songs provided a narrative of Christian hope initially for African-Americans and now for all people seeking peace, hope, and justice in the world,” says Jackson. “May we never forget these songs, the story they tell, and the hope they describe.”
Steve Horswill-Johnston is based in Nashville in his capacity as the Chief Communications Officer and Brand Strategist for the GBOD. He has served in his role as the GBOD’s top communicator since 2006. Prior to that, he was the creative architect and executive director for the UMC’s first broadcast network television advertising campaign. That campaign was the first and largest effort of its kind by a Protestant denomination, culminating in 15 national television commercials and 40 radio ads. He served as electronic media consultant for Jim Wallis and Sojourners in Washington, D.C. and is founder and director of GodFilms.com, a ministry of GBOD that produces short films for Christian small group discussion.
In 1989, Horswill-Johnston received his Master of Divinity from CST. Ten years later he was selected to be the recipient of CST’s Distinguished Alumni/ae Award. In 2008, he became a member of the CST Board of Trustees.
“Steve Horswill-Johnston has distinguished himself as an innovative and effective communicator not just for The United Methodist Church, but also for what it means to pursue a life of faith with integrity in the 21st century,” says CST President Jeffrey Kuan. “We are exceedingly proud of Steve as a CST alumnus and trustee, and we congratulate him on this well-deserved accolade.”
The annual DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards are bestowed upon active members of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) who demonstrate excellence in various categories of religious communications and public relations. The awards are named after the late Victor DeRose and Paul M. Hinkhouse. The two men shared a vocation as lithographers based in NewYork City and were strong supporters of the RCC. This year 212 entries were judged by faculty from the Journalism and Mass Communications Department at Marshall University in Huntington, W.V.
“Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice: Preserving the Gift of Black Sacred Music” can be watched in its entirety for free online.
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