Trevecca launches Center for African American Worship Studies, announces first workshop

Joining with African American leaders across the country, leaders in Trevecca’s School of Music and Worship Arts announced the Center for African American Worship Studies today.  

Dr. Stephen Newby, a sought-after worship pastor, educator, musician, composer and scholar, is the Center’s first director. He began his role on July 1.  

“The Center is tangible way to connect and resource worship leaders, particularly those within the Black church,” Newby said. “Our vision for this Center is to support congregations, through the equipping of dynamic, gifted and talented students for spiritual leadership and service in Black church congregations within multiple denominational contexts around the world.” 

The idea for the Center, Newby says, began with a conversation. In February, Newby, a faculty member at Seattle Pacific University, and Trevecca’s Dr. Vernon Whaley, associate vice president for program development in the School of Music and Worship Arts, met with African American leaders across the country to discuss the educational needs of worship leaders within the Black church community.  

In the months that followed, that conversation deepened and expanded. More than 30 influential leaders from the Black church, music industry and academic communities took part in the National African American Worship Leader’s Forum and Guild, a virtual discussion sponsored by Trevecca’s School of Music and Worship Arts. 

“These leaders played a prominent role in shaping the purposes and objectives of the new Center for African American Worship Studies,” Whaley said. “Through the Center, we’ll be able to provide degree programs that strategically meet the needs of worship personnel in the Black church community.” 

Dr. Dan Boone, Trevecca president, agrees.  

“Nashville is a community rich in African American music, religious and historical heritage,” he said. “Walden College, an institution created by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1866 for the education of freed slaves once occupied the space Trevecca now sits on. Establishing the Center on this heritage, this hallowed ground, is meaningful. It’s our hope that by joining in partnership with strategic leaders in Black communities across the United States we can play a small role in helping equip African American worship leaders in deeply meaningful ways.”  

In addition to offering graduate degree programs—both online and in-person—the Center for African American Worship Studies is also expected to develop workshops and webinars hosted by Black church leaders, online bootcamp events, on-campus intensives and “thriving congregation conferences,” which Whaley describes as “providing a safe space for reconciliation and lifting up the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

The creation of the Center for African American Worship Studies is part of the ongoing ministry of Trevecca’s School of Music and Worship Arts, according to Dr. Tom Middendorf, university provost.  

“The development of the Center for African American Worship Studies is a product of broadening the godly vision of faith and learning at Trevecca,” he said. “We are excited about developing new relationships and offering this unique educational opportunity to lead and serve in the church.”  

One of the first events sponsored by the Center for African American Worship Studies will be the First Annual African American Worship Workshop, an annual online conference designed to encourage, enlighten, energize, and engage Black worship leaders toward meaningful biblical praise and worship experiences, officials say. The first conference is set for July 20-22.   

Centered around the theme “Marching to Zion: Courage, Justice, Reconciliation, Peace and Hope,” the workshop will be co-hosted by Newby and Dr. Oscar Williams, executive director of music and art at the Potter’s House Church in Dallas/T.D. Jakes Ministries.  

“With so many conferences and annual meetings not convening this summer, this African American Worship Workshop provides genuine opportunity for encouragement, refreshment and edification,”  Newby said.  

Williams, co-host of the event, agreed.   

“The workshop will provide resources designed to better serve congregations while also offering opportunities for worship leaders to network, connect, build relationships and be encouraged,” he said. “You don’t want to miss this event!” 

Workshop presenters are expected to include:  

  • Dr. James Abbington, educator, author associate professor of church music and worship, Candler School of Theology, Emory University;  
  • VaShawn Mitchell, international recording artist and worship leader;  
  • Dr. Raymond Wise, educator and gospel choir specialist, Indiana University;  
  • Roy Cotton, music industry producer and worship pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Church, Dallas;  
  • Madelyn Berry, worship pastor, Mount Zion Church, Nashville;  
  • Babbie Mason, artist, gospel singer, songwriter, recording artist and author, Atlanta;  
  • Dr. Eddie Robinson, worship pastor, Springfield Baptist Church, Conyers, Georgia;  
  • Dr. Lester Taylor, pastor of the Community Baptist Church, Englewood, New Jersey, and president of the General Baptist Convention in New Jersey, Inc.;  
  • Dr. Oscar Williams Jr., educator and minister of music, T.D. Jake Ministries;  
  • Dr. Stephen Handy, pastor, McKendree United Methodist Church, Nashville;  
  • Dr. Leanna Frye-Walker, dean of Church of God in Christ Conference, Cincinnati;  
  • Dr. Stephen Newby, and more.  

Participants have the option of watching the event live from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. CDT each day or viewing each day’s events through prerecorded online streaming from 6-9 p.m. CDT each evening.  

“Either way, participants are guaranteed an enriching, life-changing experience,” Williams said.  

To learn more about the workshop—including teaching sessions, breakout sessions or panels—or to register, visit Cost for the three-day event is $30 per day or $75 for the entire experience, including all handouts and workshop materials. Space is limited. 

To learn more about the Center for African American Worship Studies, visit   

Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695