Fort Worth seminary students perform with international hymn writers, sing gospel

dfwnewsa | December 4, 2023 | 1 | Dallas News , Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Fort Worth seminary students perform with international hymn writers, sing gospel
Keith and Kristyn Getty, two hymn writers from Northern Ireland, visited Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on Dec. 2 to perform “Sing! An Irish Christmas.” (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)

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Nelly Juárez Villegas and Luke Hannah were reminded of their devotion to their faith moments before going onstage at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s MacGorman Chapel. 

The two are students at the seminary and members of the school’s A Cappella ensemble. Juárez, Hannah and the rest of the group spent the past three weeks preparing to perform alongside Keith and Kristyn Getty, two popular hymn writers from Northern Ireland, for their “SING! An Irish Christmas” tour on Dec. 2.

Right before the performance started, Keith Getty shared a piece of advice to the students, Hannah said. 

“Keith said this in the back to us before we started, he goes, ‘The biggest advice I ever got was, be an excellent musician, but let your faith always excel faster,’” Hannah said, recalling the moment. 

After that, the lights in the chapel lowered. It was showtime. 

Saturday marked the second time the Gettys came to the seminary to perform “SING! An Irish Christmas,” but it was the first time Juárez, Hannah and the rest of the ensemble joined them on stage for this performance. 

The night was filled with Christmas carols such as traditional, high-tempo Christmas songs such as “Deck the Halls” to slower, softer songs like “Silent Night.” The performance also included hymns such as  “All My Heart Rejoices” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Juárez, originally from Costa Rica, came to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to earn her Master’s degree in divinity in worship leadership. She has been with the A Cappella group for the past three years. Juárez was looking forward to Saturday’s performance all semester, she said. 

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“We’ve been waiting the whole semester,” Juárez said. “The Gettys have a very close vision to the one that the school has and what we have been learning here. So we love being a part of what they do because this is Christ-centered.” 

About 2,000 people gathered inside the seminary’s MacGorman Chapel on Saturday for the performance. Poinsettias and Christmas trees decorated the stage, along with instruments such as a grand piano, drums and a harp. 

Hannah, who is originally from Mississippi, is in school to earn his doctorate in musical art, voice performance and pedagogy. He enjoyed the musicians and lighting of the performance but found that sharing Scripture was most important. 

“The Bible and the emphasis on the gospel are the most important and it shows with everything they wrote. So that’s always a joy to sing with them and be a part of,” Hannah said. 

The performance touched on two things that both Juárez and Hannah value: music and sharing of the gospel. 

“Part of the mission of the A Cappella group is to not only sing, but to proclaim the gospel,” Juárez said. “So every concert is about claiming in Christ and to be able to do that in a small nursing home or a big crowd like this, the mission is always the same.” 

Marissa Greene is a Report for America corps member, covering faith for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at marissa.greene@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter @marissaygreene

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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