Praise Song Advisory Team
BRANDEN GRIMMETT is the organist at Sacred Heart Church in Lexington, Massachusetts – a progressive Catholic community. Branden came to Sacred Heart after serving as organist at Arlington Street Church, Unitarian Universalist, in Boston’s historic Back Bay. His previous positions have included director of music and organist at First Congregational Church (UCC) in Somerville, Massachusetts, and assistant music director and organist at Topsfield Congregational Church (UCC) in Massachusetts.
Branden received his B.A. in music from St.Olaf College in Minnesota, and his MTS from Harvard University. He studied organ with John Ferguson and voice with Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf Choir. He is an active member of the American Guild of Organists, the Organ Historical Society, the American Academy of Religion and The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. He is also a board member of the United Church of Christ Musicians National Network (UCCMNN).
In addition to performing, Branden is also a frequent clinician and workshop leader specializing in hymn improvisation, congregational singing and contemporary music in worship. He was a featured presenter at the 2008 UCC Musicians National Network gathering in Akron, Ohio, where he led two workshops and accompanied a keynote session led by Dr. James Abbington. In November 2008, Branden was the guest lecturer at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he presented The Theology of Contemporary Praise Music.
In June 2007, Branden served as the organist for the United Church of Christ’s 26th General Synod and 50th Anniversary Celebration in Hartford, Connecticut.
ANTHONY CABRERA enjoys a versatile career as a teacher and singer. Since receiving his degree in music from the University of Miami in 1999, he has worked under the baton of a number of conductors including James Judd (Florida Philharmonic Orchestra) Michael Tilson Thomas (The New World Symphony) and Alain Lombard (Florida Concert Association).
Anthony is the Assistant Director of Music Ministries at Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) where he directs Cantáte, the youth performance ensemble, and the Youth and Adult Bell Choirs.
He is also the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus (a member chorus of GALA – the association of gay and lesbian choruses) and INSIGNIA – the chorus’s select vocal ensemble, and he is the Choral Director and Humanities teacher at the Young Women’s Preparatory Academy – Miami Dade County Public Schools’ single gender public preparatory academy for girls.
He has conducted performances of West Side Story (Bernstein) and Lucia de Lamermoor (Donizetti). He has also been at the podium as a conductor for the MDCPS Superintendents Honors Festival Middle School Choir (2005) and from 2002 – 2005 for the University of Miami – Frost School of Music Choral Camp.
Anthony has membership in several music ensembles, organizations and associations including: Jubilate a vocal ensemble that specializes in Gospel music, African American Spirituals and the music of the Caribbean, the Florida Vocal Association (FVA), Music Educator’s National Conference (MENC), and the America Choral Directors Association (ACDA).
The REV. DR. CHRISTOPHER GRUNDY is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship and Coordinator of Chapel Programs at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. After earning degrees from Carleton College in Minnesota and Union Theological Seminary in New York, he served churches in Iowa and Kansas for eight years. He then returned to academic work, receiving M.T.S. and Ph.D degrees in liturgical studies from Garrett Theological Seminary.
For more than 15 years, Christopher has also been writing and performing music for local, regional, and national church gatherings, including General Synods, National Youth Events, and National Council of Churches young adult events. The UCC’s recent Worshiping Into God’s Future initiative included a number of his short songs written for worship. He has also recorded several collections of his own music. He is married to Carla Tellor Grundy and they have three boys. You can learn more about Christopher’s music at www.christophergrundy.com.
The REV. KEKAPA P.K. LEE has been singing from his earliest years. Raised in Haili Congregational Church in Hilo, Kekapa found motivation for singing through the Minister of Music, Albert Nahale-a, at the church. He has sung in more than a few choirs including Haili, Kamehameha Schools, military chapel choirs, University of Hawai’i at Hilo Choir, as well as churches that he has been a part of. He has experience in choral and congregational music in the Hawaiian language as well as English. In 1998, he won an award, Na Hoku Hanohano, for his album titled, “Aloha Kekahi I Kekahi” (“Let Us Love One Another”). The album featured Hawaiian hymns as he sung all four-parts.
Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Kekapa has standing in the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches UCC (AHEC), one of the five associations of the Hawai’i Conference UCC. Currently, he serves as the acting senior pastor of The First Chinese Church of Christ in Hawai’i (UCC) in Honolulu, Hawai’i. He is a member of Kawaiaha’o Church (UCC) in Honolulu. Prior to that, Kekapa served as the Papa Makua-Associate Conference Minister for the AHEC and The State Council for Hawaiian Congregational Churches—forty-eight plus churches in the HCUCC. He also was Pastor of Waiola Church UCC in Lahaina, Hawai’i from 1987-1999.
As a pastor, Kekapa facilitates most of the congregational singing and chooses the songs and hymns for worship in partnership with worship and music leaders in the congregation. He often plays the ukulele stringed instrument to accompany his singing. At First Chinese, Kekapa weekly rehearses and leads both the Chinese choir (singing in Mandarin) and the Chancel choir (singing in English) in two of three worship services each Sunday.
ELIZABETH LEUNG is a member of Sycamore Congregational UCC in El Cerrito, CA and a scholar of Christian spirituality. A native of Hong Kong, Elizabeth was ordained by the Bay Association and earned her Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.
Her theological studies and interests include cultural and religious formation, body and culture, reformed theology, women mystics, and the history of Christian spirituality. Elizabeth’s current work focuses on ministries with particular attention to the Asian & Pacific Islander community and LGBT community.
RODNEY MILTON was graduated with a degree in music education from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, in May 2006, and began his middle school teaching career in August 2006. He is active in the music ministry with churches and especially enjoys working with youth. A gifted stylist at the piano, Rodney has been playing for churches for over five years. At the last United Church of Christ Musicians National Network (UCCMNN) event, he led a workshop on Gospel music, exploring its many layers as he encouraged people to think “outside the box” in their music ministry. He is also a member of the UCMNN Steering Committee.
Rodney was a part of the musical team for the UCC General Synod 26 in Hartford, CT and will be apart of General Synod 27 in Grand Rapids, Mich. He has co-directed choirs for the national office of the UCC, including the General Synod Choir and Harambee. Rodney also composes and arranges music.
SONIA IVETTE MORALES-MATOS is a Puerto Rican composer and belongs to a family of distinguished musicians. She studied composition and jazz at Berklee College of Music in Boston and has a master’s degree in composition and jazz studies from Indiana University, Bloomington.
Sonia’s compositions explore a wide variety of styles and genres such as orchestral and chamber music, choral music, Latin jazz, pop, sacred and contemporary Christian, and tropical music. She has received commissions from the Puerto Rican Cultural Society of Dayton, the Musical Arts Corporation of Puerto Rico and from other private entities.
Some of her compositions have been published and/or recorded. Among the ones being published by the UCC we can find: Holy Spirit, We All Praise You, Cuando desciendo a las aguas, Gratitude, and You are the Wheat. Among the works that have been recorded we can mention “Paisajes” concerto for Puerto Rican cuatro and orchestra, Divertimento Caribeño no.1 for oboe and piano, and Introspection for Bb clarinet and piano.
She wrote the anthem We’re Called to be the Light of the World in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the UCC. The piece was premiered during the activities of the 2007 UCC General Synod. During 2008, she had pieces ranging from orchestral, Latin Jazz, and chamber music premiere in Puerto Rico, Ohio, and Kansas respectively
Sonia has been a professor at the Escuela Libre de Música de Puerto Rico, John Jay College, the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, and Cambridge College. She is a UCC member and has participated in several projects sponsored by the Worship and Education Ministries Team, Local Church Ministries such as Worshiping into God’s Future and Worship Ways. She served as a member of the UCC Musicians Network Steering Committee.
Sonia Ivette resides in Ohio where she pursues her career as a composer and educator.
The REV. JILL K. WARNER is a pastor, teacher, musician, and composer. She holds a B.A. in Music Education from The College of St. Benedict, and received her M.Div from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
Following her years as a music educator and youth director, Jill followed a call to Intentional Interim Ministry, serving seven different congregations in South Dakota, Ohio, Minnesota, Utah and Northwest Ontario.
In 2005 Jill began work on a Worship Revitalization ministry, Tributaries of Faith, in partnership with Faith United Church of International Falls, MN. She is now the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
NATIONAL STAFF AD HOC MEMBER and ADVISORS
The REV. DR. JOSÉ ABRAHAM DE JESÚS was born in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico and grew up in the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico (UCC). At the age of 13, he became a youth leader locally and nationally. At that time, he was asked to serve in a mission point in his hometown preaching and teaching Sunday school. In 1963 at the age of 19, he was assigned by the Conference Council to his first full time parish while he was a student at the University of Puerto Rico, where he earned his B.A. in Philosophy and Education. José completed his Master in Theology at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico and his Doctorate of Ministry degree with specialization in Christian Education at Andover Newton Theological School in 1981. Education credits were taken at Harvard Graduate School of Education, Boston College and Boston University as part of the Doctoral degree.
During his 17 years in parish ministry he served churches in San Juan, Fajardo, Rio Piedras and Ponce, Puerto Rico. Since then, he has served as Associate Conference Minister for Christian Education, Programs and Ministries in the Puerto Rico Conference, Adjunct Professor at the Evangelical Seminary in Puerto Rico, Director of Hispanic Ministries for the Illinois Conference and Area Conference Minister for the Chicago Metropolitan Association of the Illinois Conference with responsibility for 67 churches in the city of Chicago and suburbs. He joined the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries national staff in September 1991, as Minister for Education in the Local Church and Vocation.
On July 1, 2000, he was called as Minister and Team Leader for the Worship and Education Ministry Team in the Local Church Ministries, a Covenanted Ministry of the United Church of Christ. In 2008 his position was changed to Team Leader for LCM Mission Priorities. He retired from the national setting of the UCC in 2009.
José is married to Aris Neida, and together they have three children: José, Yanira and Noraida and five grandchildren: Sebastian, Riley Aris, Analía, Sophia and Joely. His hobbies include woodworking, Native American flute-making and playing, music, computer, fishing and hunting.
The REV. SUSAN A. BLAIN is Minister for Worship, Liturgy, and Spiritual Formation with the Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry of Local Church Ministries. Raised in the Roman Catholic Church, Sue spent her young adulthood as a member of a Catholic religious community, where she served as a community organizer in a low income neighborhood. Theological study at Union Theological Seminary in New York City introduced her to the challenges and joys of ecumenical Protestantism, and developed her gifts for preaching and worship leadership. After receiving her M.Div from Union, Sue joined its staff to serve as Director of the Seminary’s daily chapel services. Over the next few years Sue worked with a generation of Union students, helping to nurture their gifts for preaching, worship planning and leadership in the ecumenical community and flexible space of James Memorial Chapel. During this time, Sue participated in the UCC curriculum project called The Inviting Word, by editing volumes 2 and 3 of Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource.
In 1995, Sue joined the staff of The Riverside Church in New York City, where she served as Coordinator of Worship. There she collaborated with clergy staff, musicians and lay leaders to shape Riverside’s worship for Sunday mornings and festival events, and to develop an informal mid-week service of prayer, preaching and testimony called Creating a Space for Grace.
During her years at Riverside Sue became a member of the United Church of Christ. She has served as licensed minister of small congregations in Maine and Rhode Island. Sue was ordained to her position in the national setting of the UCC in May 2007.
The REV. SCOTT A. RESSMAN, editor, is the Minister for Worship, Music, and Liturgical Arts at the national offices of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio. He began his call in July 2006, following a six-year pastorate at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Andover, Ohio. He is a 1999 graduate of Eden Theological Seminary.
Scott began piano lessons when he was seven years old, studying with his Godmother, Evelyn Miller who was the organist and choir director of his childhood church, Salem United Church of Christ in Tonawanda, New York. Scott would frequently sit down at his family’s basement piano and pick out songs that he had heard, so his Godmother advised starting lessons before his natural ear took over.
When he was eight years old, Scott became involved in church music going from room to room in Sunday school to play hymns. When he was fourteen, though he had just a few organ lessons, Scott began playing the pipe organ in church, substituting for his former elementary school music teacher, Daniel Schultz, and eventually numerous churches in the Buffalo, New York area. At sixteen, he was offered an organist and choir director position with a prominent congregation in Buffalo, but didn’t accept the call. Less than a year later, he accepted a position with a Disciples of Christ church, where he remained for thirteen years.
During undergraduate study in government and political science, Scott was active in the music program at Medaille College, where he often accompanied vocal students during performances. He also taught private piano and voice lessons. Also while in college, Scott was invited to join the prestigious Paul Robeson Chorale of Buffalo, New York, the only Caucasian male singer in the group.
A fan of theatre, Scott was cast as one of two non-equity performers in “Man of LaMancha,” at Artpark, a summer-stock theatre venue in Lewiston, New York. He remembers that time with great fondness.
Before heading off to seminary in 1996, Scott had returned to his childhood church to fill the role of organist and choir director once held by his Godmother. He served the church for two years before becoming the thirteenth individual from Salem UCC called into pastoral ministry. Scott was active in the music program at Eden, singing with the choir and accompanying them for a short time as well. While searching for a call to a local church, he served as the Minister of Music for First United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Missouri.
Scott is a published composer with his organ composition, “In His Love,” which was composed after the sudden death of a friend. In 2008, he completed producing The New Century Hymnal on CD, a thirty-five volume set of pipe organ accompaniments for each hymn. On the project, Scott worked with musicians from across the United Church of Christ, recording the hymns at two UCC churches in the Cleveland, Ohio area. The New Century Hymnal on CD marks the first time that any denomination has produced a live pipe-organ accompaniment series for their hymnal.
Scott’s work with Sing! Prayer and Praise began in late 2006, when a contest announcing the project sought submissions to the developing praise and worship song book. Hundreds of original songs were received, many from individuals who had never before written down their compositions. Scott was charged with putting together a team to select two winners in competition, the team that would come to be known as the Praise Song Advisory Team (PSAT). This group of diverse individuals volunteered their time to the project, coming to the UCC Church House (national offices) in Cleveland to meet for intense sessions every few months, as well as work by email and phone.
In his spare time, Scott enjoys spending time with his family and friends, watching mindless reality television, surfing the internet, and the occasional trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando.