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Garrett-Evangelical Partners with Discipleship Ministries to Create The Junius B. Dotson Institute for Music and Worship in the Black Church and Beyond

Dotson InstituteGarrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, in partnership with Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church, is pleased to announce the creation of The Junius B. Dotson Institute for Music and Worship in the Black Church and Beyond. Made possible by a $500,000 grant from Discipleship Ministries, the Institute’s purpose is two-fold: 1) to provide ongoing training to music and worship leaders in the areas of sacred music and general worship particular to the Black church, giving homage to the global ethos of Africana music and 2) to create an archive of music and scholarship that will preserve and promote the rich history of Black Church music.


The Institute’s initial efforts will focus on professional development for practitioners who have experienced limited or no formal training in the areas of sacred music and worship unique to the Black church. In the spirit of the former Methodist Circuit Riders, the Institute will be itinerant, holding events and trainings around the country to reach churches, musicians, and choral leaders who cannot easily come to the Chicago area.


The Institute will be led by the Reverend Dr. Cynthia A. Wilson (pictured on right), an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church with extensive pastoral and worship experience. Wilson holds a PhD in liturgical studies from Garrett-Evangelical and presently serves as the executive director, Worship Resources and director of Liturgical Resources at Discipleship Ministries. Before coming to Discipleship Ministries, Wilson served as assistant vice president of student life and dean of students at Garrett-Evangelical. A talented vocalist and sought after performer, Wilson has won many awards including “Best Female Vocalist” at the Gospel Choice Awards.


“It is no secret that the historically rich sound track of the Black Church context is in imminent danger of becoming extinct.” said Wilson. “For this reason, the Institute seeks to recover, recreate, and revitalize the distinctive musical and liturgical heritages born out of the ethos and pathos of Africana music and worship celebrations.”


“Currently, there are but a few training programs in the nation that remotely resemble this Institute,” said Javier A. Viera, president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. “And with the elimination of many church music degrees, we have an important educational opportunity to offer formal training in church music, worship, and liturgical arts that will expand our connection to and presence in the Black Church. Garrett-Evangelical’s long history of connection to the Black Church endures, and the theological and historical resources of our Center for the Church and the Black Experience (CBE) make this initiative a natural extension of that legacy. It also represents a renewed and even deeper commitment to the thriving of the Black Church.”


The Junius B. Dotson Institute for Music and Worship in the Black Church and Beyond is named in honor of the late clergyman and denominational leader, the Reverend Junius B. Dotson (pictured on left), a nationally recognized speaker and author on evangelism and church revitalization. He most recently served as the general secretary (CEO) of Discipleship Ministries, an international agency of The United Methodist Church from July 2016 until his death in February 2021. Before serving at Discipleship Ministries, Dotson was the senior pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas for 14 years.


“Discipleship Ministries is delighted to partner with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary to create The Junius B. Dotson Institute for Music and Worship in the Black Church and Beyond,” said Jeff Campbell, acting general secretary of Discipleship Ministries. “Partnering with Garrett to train current and future generations of worship leaders is an important part of the mission and purpose of Discipleship Ministries. Discipleship Ministries worship staff looks forward to supporting the Institute as together we offer training events globally.”


The Institute will be organizationally situated within Garrett-Evangelical’s Center for the Church and the Black Experience (CBE). Founded in 1970, CBE is an academic initiative focusing on church life as experienced by Black people. CBE holds a rich history that is filled with teaching and learning, activism and service, research and publishing, all centered on the Black experience and the rich legacy of the Black church.