Overview

The Rev. John Garcia Gensel, founding pastor of St. Peter's Lutheran Church jazz ministry in New York City, was described by Duke Ellington as "the shepherd who watches over the night flock." Gensel, who became the pastor to the New York City jazz community and instituted weekly jazz vespers once said, "Jazz is probably the best music for worship, because it speaks to the existential situation of a human being."

The Event
Jazz for the Journey will gather pastors, worship leaders, jazz musicians and jazz lovers from around the country to celebrate, share and explore the creative possibilities of jazz, and its power to speak to our existential situation and transform Christian worship.
 
This three-day event will feature leaders in the liturgical jazz movement sharing their perspectives on the music’s impact on the ministry and mission of the Church. The United Church of Christ, in affirming that God is still speaking to the Church today, recognizes that jazz offers unlimited potential for worship renewal and faith formation.
 
Jazz and the Church
Jazz, often referred to as America’s original art form, arose in the African American community. Jazz and the church have been inexorably linked since the first slaves were allowed into their master’s sanctuary and encouraged to embrace the religion of their oppressors. In the decades that followed, their work songs and rhythmic melodies became the musical sustenance for their own prayer meetings. Gospel music emerged and sang of a heavenly sanctuary, the sweet by-and-by, and the hope of spiritual freedom. Emancipation promised real freedom, yet in reality produced violent prejudice. Somehow, the music continued. The blues grew from the daily trials and heartaches of a people trying to survive bigotry. Over the years the music has taken many twists and turns and evolved into the art we commonly call jazz.
 
Jazz for the Journey will delve into jazz as a liturgical expression that offers spiritual inspiration and an existential probing of what it means to be God’s people in the twenty-first century struggling with the issues and injustices that permeate our modern world. The improvisational nature of jazz offers a deeper understanding of prayer and the challenge of discerning the call of a Stillspeaking God.
 
Program Highlights
Presentations
Jazz: Liturgical Music for Transformative Worship — Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
Why Jazz in Worship? — Rev. Dr. Henry Simmons and Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
Jazz improvisation as Prayer — Rev. Dr. Ozzie Smith and Rev. Dr. Dwight Andrews
Jazz: Liturgical Music for Transformative Worship — Rev. Geoffrey A. Black and Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs

Workshops
The Spirituality of Jazz — Rev. Dr. Harry Serio
Come Sunday @ 70:  Duke Ellington’s Sacred Jazz in Retrospect (two succesive sessions) — Dr. Regennia N. Williams
Developing Repertoire for Jazz Worship — Willie Sordillo
Crafting Worship in the Key of Jazz — Rev. Cliff Aerie
From Bach to Brubeck: Learning from the Great Improvisers — Rev. Bill Carter
Blues Preaching: How to Preach to the Brokenhearted and with a Broken Heart — Rev. Dr. Kirk Byron Jones
 
Music by:
Rev. Cliff Aerie (sax) and the Oîkos Ensemble
Featuring . . .
James Weidman, piano
Glenn Holmes, bass
Ricky Exton, drums
Angela Lynard & Arianna Aerie, vocals
 
Spiritual Renewal
Jazz worship services
Sacred Side of Jazz Concert — hosted by Leon Bibb, WEWS, Channel 5
Jam Sessions (participants invited to bring their instruments)
 
Liturgical Formation
Resources, handouts, and ideas galore
Creative networking
Chartering of UCC Jazz Network