WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (BP)–It started with a phone conversation and later became an award-winning musical.
The musical, “Make Us One,” by Florida music minister Kenny Mann and Christian vocalist Babbie Mason, focuses on Christian unity transcending racial and denominational barriers.
It received a Dove Award for Musical of the Year from the Gospel Music Association in April.
Mann has served as minister of music at Calvary Baptist Church, Winter Haven, Fla., for nine months. He previously directed music for Skycrest Baptist Church, Clearwater, Fla. He met Mason some time ago when she performed at Dauphin Way Baptist Church, Mobile, Ala., where he was serving as a music associate. Their first collaboration, “Sea of Forgetfulness” sung by Helen Baylor, reached No. 1 on the inspirational music chart.
A year and a half ago, a phone conversation precipitated the “Make Us One” musical, published by Word music’s David T. Clydesdale Music, Nashville, Tenn.
“I was talking to Babbie on the phone about the racial tension in the nation because of the O.J. Simpson trial,” Mann said. “She said the tension was evident even in her concerts, when blacks would sit on one side and whites on the other. She said she felt like saying, ‘Folks, this is the church. We are supposed to be unified.’
“We wanted to do something on a higher level to get that message of unification across,” Mann said. “Neither of us had written a musical before. But I said that didn’t mean God couldn’t use us.”
Mann and Mason wrote the musical in one week at Mason’s home near Atlanta, then worked with producer David T. Clydesdale to put the finishing touches on the project.
“The musical is about unity in the body of Christ, not only a racial movement but an interdenominational challenge as a Christian,” Mann said. “In the musical, there is a call to invite sister churches of different races, denominations and cultures to share the experience of worship together.”
The musical also includes a communion service. That part of the musical helped bring healing to two pastors — one white and one black – – leading the service during a performance in Birmingham, Ala.
“Babbie told me that in the middle of the musical, where the black pastor was talking about the Lord’s graciousness, he stopped and said he had to ask for forgiveness,” Mann said. The man repented of resentments he had held against white people. The white pastor then expressed a similar prayer.
“When you are around the Lord’s Supper table, you can’t help but love one another,” Mann said. “Communion is such a strong fellowship draw. There, everyone is equal.
“People are hurting and we have to reach out,” he said. “We are one in Christ. If part of the body is hurt, we should all feel anguish and pain and want healing.”
In addition to receiving the award for her songwriting, Mason also won a Dove Award for Best Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year for “Stop By the Church” from her “Heritage of Faith” album.
Mann and Mason already have written songs for a proposed joint project on the second coming of Christ.