Jazz for the Journey Presenters


Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ (Cleveland, OH)
Ecumenical commitment, concern for equal justice, African-American empowerment, and community improvement have shaped Rev. Black’s ministry in the church and in the communities in which he has lived. His passion for jazz and love of liturgy were the inspiration and vision for this conference.

Rev. Black was elected General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ in June 2009. Prior to that he served from 2000 to 2009 as Conference Minister of the UCC’s regional New York Conference and previously as a Minister for Church Life and Leadership with the then-Office for Church Life and Leadership. He has also served as Pastor of the Congregational UCC of South Hempstead (N.Y.), assistant chaplain at Brown University, associate minister of St. Albans Congregational UCC in Queens, lecturer at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and Protestant chaplain at Adelphi University.

During his tenure as a local church pastor, Black also was active in Association and Conference life, serving on several committees and holding a number of elected offices. He served on the Ordination and Standing Committee and the Committee on Church in the Metropolitan Community of the New York Metropolitan Association. He was chairperson of the New York Conference Commission on Mission Priorities and also served as moderator of the Conference.

His ministry includes working with organizations such as the Nassau Coalition for Safety and Justice, The Long Island Interracial Alliance for a Common Future, and the Amistad Cultural Center of Long Island, which he co-founded.

Black is married to Patricia Williams-Black. They have one daughter, Makeda Black, who resides in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Rev. Dr. Henry T. Simmons,  Pastor, St. Albans Congregational UCC (Queens, NY)
Dr. Simmons began his ministry as Associate Minister for Peoples Congregational UCC, Washington, DC. He has served as pastor of the Mayflower Congregational UCC, Detroit, MI and on the evangelism and church development staff of the former United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. He has been Senior Minister of the St. Albans Congregational UCC in Queens, NY since March 1991.

St. Albans Congregational UCC is located at the edge of Addisleigh Park, a community in which jazz luminaries such as Count Basie, Milt Hinton and Lena Horne once resided. Dr. Simmons’ personal love of the arts, particularly jazz, moved him to use this music medium as a tool for evangelism first in regular Sunday worship and, since 2001, through monthly Jazz Vespers Communion Services.

Rev. Dr. Dwight Andrews, Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC (Atlanta, GA)
Associate Professor of Music Theory and African American Music at Emory University
A Detroit native, he holds Bachelors and Masters of Music degrees from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Divinity degree from the Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Yale University. He has taught at Rice, Yale, and Harvard Universities. The roles of educator, artist, and pastor are well aligned with his holistic advocacy of ministries devoted to the whole person – mind, body, and soul. Under his leadership, the membership at First Church has grown and the foundation for the next century of service has been carefully laid. As a musician, Andrews has appeared on over 25 jazz and ‘new music’ recordings.

Andrews has served as musical director for the Broadway productions of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, and Seven Guitars, and the Broadway revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S. Dutton.  Andrews was the first Quincy Jones Visiting Professor of African American Music at Harvard University for 1996-1997 and Artistic Director of the 1998 National Black Arts Festival. He is the creator and host of a new television magazine entitled Art and Soul, which explores the religious and spiritual perspectives of well-known artists from a variety of different disciplines. His present research examines the musical and spiritual path of six jazz masters – Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, and Albert Ayler.

Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith, Jr., Senior Pastor, Covenant United Church of Christ (South Holland, IL)
Adjunct professor of ministry and D. Min. advisor at McCormick Theological Seminary
Anointed, gifted, leader, teacher, virtuoso, maestro, scholar, theologian, professor, revivalist, activist, entrepreneur, counselor, friend, and pastor are just a few of the words that describe the Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith, Jr. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, he is a well respected and loved pastor and musician.  Known for his phenomenal and heart-provoking saxophone playing, Rev. Smith is an equally gifted preacher who is sought out for revivals across the country.  His unique ability to combine his music and his invigorating interpretation of the gospel message has brought hope and encouragement to God’s people everywhere. In 1996 he accepted God’s call to pastor Covenant United Church of Christ, a new church start in South Holland, IL.  Since that first Sunday, Covenant has grown by leaps and bounds now standing as the fastest growing and one of the largest churches in the United Church of Christ with over 3000 members.

Dr. Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Langston University, a Master of Education in Music degree from the University of Memphis, and Master of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.  Dr. Smith serves as an. Currently Dr. Smith serves on the Advisory Board Alliance for Christian Media and as a Trustee at McCormick Theological Seminary. More important than all of these, Dr. Smith was a loving husband to his late devoted wife and partner in ministry Barbara Westbrooks-Smith, and the father of three children Lauran, Dr. Ozzie III, and Brian.

Rev. Paul Hobson Sadler, Jr., Pastor, Mt. Zion Congregational Church United Church of Christ (Cleveland, OH)
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Paul Hobson Sadler attended Howard University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He continued his education at the Howard University School of Divinity and earned the Master of Divinity Degree. Rev. Sadler has served United Church of Christ congregations in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Louisiana and Chicago, Illinois, where he served three years as Associate Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. Rev. Sadler was host and executive producer of an award winning Christian talk show, Reaching Out, on cable television in New Orleans.  Rev. Sadler currently serves as Pastor of Mt. Zion Congregational Church United Church of Christ, one of the oldest African American Congregations in Cleveland, OH. He also serves as President and Chairman of Creative Arts Ministries, a nonprofit ministry consulting firm, where he oversees their programmatic efforts to use the creative arts to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Considered a leading expert in the field of African American church growth, Rev. Sadler is widely sought after to provide seminars, workshops and lectures in seminaries, local congregations and denominational gatherings. Rev. Sadler is an eloquent preacher who is gifted with a resonant bass voice that he uses to sing and preach to the glory of God. He has performed in the theater, on the concert stage, and has appeared in several films.

Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs, Executive Director of CLUE-California
The Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs is the executive director of CLUE-California (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice), a statewide faith-rooted organization, that advocates for worker and immigrant rights, quality education, and health care.  He is also an ethics instructor for the California Department of Justice’s Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) program for law enforcement executives, including police chiefs, sheriffs, and commanders.

Cribbs is the former of pastor of San Marino Congregational United Church of Christ in Los Angeles and Christian Fellowship Congregational UCC in San Diego.  He was president of the Ecumenical Council of San Diego County.  On staff with Common Global Ministries, Art traveled to more than 20 countries, itinerated and accompanied global partners who visited the United States. He served as the executive director of the United Church of Christ Office of Communication and has an extensive background in broadcast news and talk radio.  As president of Pacific Media Ministry, a television production company in San Diego that produced local and network programs, he won an Emmy Award for “Stories of the Soul: Life after 9/11,” and was nominated for an Emmy  for “Changing Faces of AIDS.”

He is a jazz-spoken word artist and has written two original plays, including Awaiting Judgment©, which brings together 20th century theologians and social activists Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a fictional dialogue inside a prison cell. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from UC Berkeley in political science, Master of Divinity from the Chicago Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry from the Claremont School of Theology.

The Oîkos Ensemble, directed by Rev. Cliff Aerie
The Oîkos Ensemble includes James Wediman (piano), Glenn Holmes (bass), Ricky Exton (drums), Angela Lynard and Arianna Aerie (vocalists)

A consortium of gifted musicians celebrating stories of transformation and enlightenment from around the world, the Oîkos Ensemble transcends musical boundaries, painting vibrant soundscapes with the brush stroke of jazz improvisation affirming the human family as one, global ensemble. Oîkos offers creative worship, “Blessings on the Journey” concerts and multimedia celebrations for faith communities, regional/national gatherings, festivals and concert series. Oîkos has performed at more than 300 gatherings receiving unanimous applause.

Oîkos has led worship and offered concerts at congregations in 18 UCC Conferences, appeared at General Synod, National Youth Event, ¡Missionworks! and Regional Seminarian gatherings. In addition they have led worship at 8 UCC Conference annual meetings, 6 Association meetings and a variety of programs at the UCC national setting. Led by founder and saxophonist the Rev. Clifford Aerie, the Oîkos Ensemble has been acknowledged as innovators on the vanguard of creative ministry and worship renewal. Grammy Award winner Paul Winter says, “I salute Cliff Aerie and the Oîkos Ensemble for their inspired music and mission. They are serving the world with their song.”


Rev. Dr. Harry L. Serio is pastor of Christ Church UCC, Temple, PA, having concluded a 32 year ministry at St. John’s UCC, Kutztown, PA. One of the founders of the Berks Jazz Fest, a ten-day international festival, he has been with the festival for all of its 23 years, serving seven years as festival chairman. He has introduced Jazz and Dixieland worship and other liturgies using alternative music styles in the United Church of Christ congregations he has served.

Willie Sordillo began playing alto saxophone in nightclubs at the age of 15.  Forty-seven years later, he’s still at it.  In addition to performing mainstream jazz, Willie has an extensive background in Latin and Brazilian bands, and has been part of groups which have opened for or played with Tito Puente, Ruben Blades, Poncho Sanchez and Kurt Elling.  For the past 8 years he has served as musical director for a weekly jazz worship service at Old South Church in Boston, and frequently brings jazz worship to churches throughout Massachusetts.  For over 10 years he has occupied the Maceo Parker chair in a band which backs a James Brown impersonator, which is another kind of church altogether.

Regennia N. Williams is an Associate Professor of History at Cleveland State University.   She earned her doctorate in history (2001) from Case Western Reserve University and her Master’s of Public Administration (1990) and Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies (1986) from the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. Her research focuses on African American history and culture, especially as it relates to education and religion in urban America. In the 2009-2010 academic year, she received the prestigious Fulbright Scholar’s Grant, and she served as a Visiting Fulbright Scholar in the Department of History at Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University. Dr. Williams is the founder and director of The Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD), editor of Traditions & Beliefs, RASHAD’s quarterly newsletter, and a scholarly journal by the same name.

Rev. Bill Carter is a working jazz musician who has served as a Presbyterian pastor for 28 years. He dances the dotted line between church chancel and concert stage, creating CDs, DVDs, and new compositions with his band, the Presbybop Quartet. A nine-time preacher for the Day One national radio ministry, his latest musical project is a DVD entitled “Jazz Belongs in Church,” available through www.jazzbooks.com.

Rev. Dr. Kirk Byron Jones holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Emory University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Drew University. The author of several best-selling books for those seeking to grow spiritually in an ever-challenging world, Jones serves as adjunct professor of ethics, preaching, and pastoral ministry at Andover Newton Theological School. Throughout his thirty-year pastoral ministry, Dr. Jones has served on various religious and civic committees at the local and national level. Two of his books which focus heavily on the contributions of Jazz to ministry and leadership are The Jazz of Preaching: How to Preach with Great Freedom and Joy, and the newly released, Fulfilled: Living and Leading with Unusual, Wisdom, Peace, and Joy, both published by Abingdon Press. You may read Dr.Jones’ blog and other words of inspiration at www.kirkbjones.com and www.facebook.com/yestograce.

Rev. Clifford Aerie has spent a lifetime exploring the adventurous terrain of creativity. At the heart of his art and ministry is an invitation to embark on a spiritual journey through the imaginative landscape of the soul. As an ordained minister, Rev. Aerie has pastored five congregations in urban, suburban and rural settings, founded an experimental arts ministry, worked as an ecumenical media producer and church renewal consultant. As Special Events Producer for the United Church of Christ he has staged seven General Synods. As staff to the UCC 50th anniversary committee he coordinated the development of the commemorative publication, UCC@50, produced the Easter TV special, Joy Dawned Again, co-produced the All Saints Day national webcast, authored creative worship resources for local congregations, and produced the 50th Anniversary celebrative concert at General Synod 26.

Currently, Cliff directs the Resident Artist Ministry for the UCC Missouri Mid-South Conference, working with artists and congregations in worship renewal, spiritual formation and mission outreach. His Jazz Nativity productions have received rave reviews in St. Louis and Kansas City. He is currently planning the 2013 production season.