Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Sabbatical grant extends beyond pastor


Learn music with John Bell
  • Saturday, May 26—Music workshops, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., St. Paul’s Church, 1442 S. Quaker. There is a registration fee. Sign up by May 16 at www.bostonavenue.org.
  • Sunday, May 27--"Big Sing," 6 p.m.; Memorial Worship Service and Communion, 7 p.m. Both at Boston Avenue Church.

On Sunday during Annual Conference, musical leadership by John Bell of Scotland is offered as a gift from a pastor who loves creativity in worship and who created ways to extend her sabbatical grant funds to benefit many others.

In 2010, St. Paul’s Church in Tulsa assisted the pastor, Twila Gibbens, in seeking funds from the Lilly Foundation. The grant funded a plan to enrich worship in the congregation, drawing on a two-month sabbatical for the pastor.

Rev. Gibbens took part in a weeklong retreat at the Iona Abbey of Scotland and weekend Christian festival in England, and she visited the Taize monastery in France. Rev. Bell, whose musical gifts are noted globally, was the lecturer at Iona during Gibbens’ time there.

Upon the pastor’s return, the church experienced a refreshed clergy leader and heard stories of worship and community ministries from those countries. Icons from France now grace the church during Taize’ services. Fellowship has been enjoyed in the model of a Scottish Celigh (a folk-dancing and storytelling event).

With remaining grant funds, Gibbens sought to further enrich worship for the congregation. St. Paul’s invited Bell to Tulsa. The available date he offered coincided with Annual Conference.

"It seemed right to offer this hymn writer’s leadership to musicians and pastors of the Oklahoma Conference," Gibbens said.

The Annual Conference worship design team agreed. Chairperson Janice Sharp said delegates and guests will delight in learning and singing hymns under Bell’s leadership on Sunday.

Bell is acclaimed for his ability to quickly teach new songs to audiences, among his many accomplishments.

He will lead a "Big Sing" for all at 6 p.m. in Boston Avenue’s sanctuary and is music leader for the 7 p.m. opening worship.

One of his hymns that all will sing at Sunday’s Memorial Service is "Go, Silent Friend," set to the tune of "O Danny Boy."

The Lilly Foundation encourages clergy to "do something that will make their hearts sing," Gibbens said. This grant is extending itself to make all hearts sing as Annual Conference opens.


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