This month, The Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis will present “Heaven in a Nightclub,” an exploration of the Gospel that traces the spiritual roots of jazz music.
The 90-minute concert led by accomplished jazz pianist Dr. William Edgar, professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Pa., will demonstrate via music and narrative how African-Americans were nurtured on the Gospel through secular and spiritual musical styles such as ragtime, blues, spirituals, and funeral bands. Edgar will be joined by bassist Randy Pendleton and vocalist/composer Ruth Naomi Floyd.
“Through Ruth, Randy, and Bill’s performance, we are enabled to experience something of how the twinned Gospel themes of suffering and hope collided with the indignity of slavery and countered with an energy and joy beyond what circumstances offered,” explains Mark Ryan, the Institute’s director since January 2013.
Ryan sees the concert as an opportunity to share the Gospel with the broader St. Louis community. “For some people, the whole history of jazz is new to them. For others, to see Christians performing jazz at a high level breaks through stereotypes,” he said.
As well, he hopes the concert will inspire and challenge seminary students to consider the various ways the Gospel permeates culture. “Apologetics is not only a rational enterprise in the 21st century, but it includes the relational and aesthetic as well.”
Ryan, a native Australian who has served since 2010 as an adjunct professor at Covenant, sees the event within the larger vision for the next era of the Institute: “The overarching vision is to better prepare future ministry leaders by supplementing the seminary curriculum in ways that enable students to see evangelism modeled in creative and meaningful ways and move them to engage in it.”
The concert will take place Friday, Oct. 25, at South City Church in St. Louis.