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Thad Roberts faculty chair inaugurated at Southwestern

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The Thad Roberts Chair of Church Music Ministry was inaugurated in formal ceremonies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 14.

Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill installed David W. Music in the chair during an investiture and presentation of the medallion ceremony.

The endowed faculty chair is named in memory of the 32-year music minister from South Main Baptist Church in Houston who died in 1987.

Music joined the faculty of Southwestern’s school of church music in 1990 and has taught in the music ministry and music history departments. He has written numerous books and articles and has written or arranged music for congregational singing, choir, organ, piano, handbells and recorders.

A native of Ardmore, Okla., Music earned an undergraduate degree from California Baptist University and master’s and doctorate degrees from Southwestern. Prior to joining Southwestern’s faculty, he taught at California Baptist University from 1980-90. He served as chair of the music department and fine arts division at California Baptist from 1985-90. He also served at Highland Heights Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., from 1977-80.

“I’m deeply honored,” Music said in a luncheon honoring his inauguration to the chair. “Our faculty represents the finest group of church music people anywhere on the planet. ‘I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever,'” he said, quoting the hymn.

Roberts’ tenure at South Main Baptist included youth and adult choir tours in the United States, Japan, East Africa, England, Scotland, Wales and South America. According to friends, the church’s music ministry he developed contributed to the overall worship, proclamation, ministry, outreach and fellowship at South Main.

David M. and Charis W. Smith, members of the Houston church’s choir, endowed the $500,000 chair. The Smiths began the process in 1984 of funding the chair, but their plans were delayed when the petroleum industry hit hard times. Smith is president and chairman of Chemical Exchange Industries Inc. in Galena Park, Texas, on the Houston Ship Channel.

In a letter dated May 12, 1984, the Smiths outlined the respect they had for Roberts. Smith read the letter to Roberts and friends at a party in their home.

“Probably more than any person in our denomination you have shown what the role of music minister can be,” the letter reads. “Over the years you have stretched the dimensions, the possibilities of the minister of music. You have truly ministered — with energy, with commitment, with caring concern, with creative imagination and withal giving God the glory.”

Roberts’ career spanned four decades. He served in the 13th Air Force during World War II in the South Pacific. Educated at Centenary College, Oklahoma Baptist University, Southwestern Seminary and Teachers’ College, Columbia University, his ministry included Queensborough Baptist Church, Shreveport, La.; Immanuel Baptist Church, Shawnee, Okla.; Exchange Avenue Baptist Church, Oklahoma City; First Baptist Church, Duncan, Okla.; and South Main.

Roberts was born June 26, 1922, in Shreveport. He was a member of First Baptist Church of Shreveport where he met and married Mary Kathleen Wells in April 1941. He died January 8, 1987, after a battle with cancer.

“When I think of Shreveport, I don’t think of Terry Bradshaw,” said Benjamin Harlan, dean of Southwestern’s school of church music. “I think of Thad Roberts.

Harlan noted “three musicians who either came from Shreveport, or Shreveport was a big part in their journey, in their influence” — “Elvis, who got his start in Louisiana hayrides; the blues musician Ledbelley Ledbetter; and Thad Roberts. I think that’s pretty good company.”

During a chapel service inaugurating the chair, Smith said he once believed that anybody who could carry a tune and could keep the beat could be a song leader. He said it was hard for him to understand why anyone would be paid for leading church music.

“He [Roberts] began to show me the astonishing difference between being a song leader… and a minister of music,” Smith said. “He demonstrated by his life and his ministry just what that could be, for which all of us that knew him are supremely grateful.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MUSIC CHAIR.

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  • Roy Hayhurst

    Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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