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Assembly 2010

CeCe Winans' Music Mission

Outside the Comfort Zone

By Yvette Moore

Musical guest CeCe Winans was running full throttle even before her performance at United Methodist Women's Assembly in St. Louis, Mo., May 1.

Musical guest CeCe Winans was running full throttle even before her performance at United Methodist Women's Assembly in St. Louis, Mo., May 1. In addition to touring and promoting her eighth solo album, "Thy Kingdom Come," released in 2008, and a reunion CD with her brother BeBe, "Still," the duo's ninth project, the award-winning Gospel artist teamed up with Abington Press this past summer on a vacation Bible school curriculum and continues with her four-year-old "Always Sisters, Forever Brothers" youth conferences, an effort she says will help young people know "who they are and Whose they are."

"I think Gospel music should reach out wherever it can."

Ms. Winans has quite a bit in common with United Methodist Women. She laughed in solidarity when told United Methodist Women often pushes women out of their comfort zone to answer God's call to mission.

"Oh, yes! I've been out of my comfort zone ever since they put a mike in my hand!" she said. "I was comfortable singing background or in the choir, but not lead!"

Much of that began to change when she was about 17 and singing with her brother BeBe in a group on the PTL Club television show, and they were asked to sing a duet.

"After we sang, 'Lord, Lift Us Up Where We Belong,' people started calling the show asking, 'Can we get those colored kids, those black kids, to sing at our church, our event!'" she said. "We started singing as a duo."

Ms. Winans was reared in a Pentecostal home where secular music could not be played and was comfortable with that. But she grew along with a Gospel music industry that was establishing itself as a contemporary genre with mass appeal that could cross over church walls and Christian radio stations to the general public. Today, her music -- along with many other Gospel artists – is a regular on R&B and pop music radio stations' play lists.

"Sometimes people think if you don't say 'God' it's not Gospel, but the message is there," she said. "I think Gospel music should reach out wherever it can. There was a time when people thought country music would only be received in one area. Now it's all over. I'd like to see that happen with Gospel music."

In 1999 Ms. Winans' recording label folded, and she was once again pushed outside her comfort zone in mission.

"You're out there with no label," she said, explaining that at first, that was scary. "But that also meant, I didn't have any contractual obligations. My manager said, 'Start your own label. You can do it. You hire the people you need.'"

She recognized her label folding as God opening an opportunity, as uncomfortable as it felt. She now records on her own label, PureSprings Gospel. This is also giving Ms. Winans an opportunity to help nurture other artists in the future.

With those experiences, Ms. Winans believes her music has a special message for United Methodist Women, an organization that's purposed for more than 140 years to be a part of what God is doing in the world and is positioning itself another 140 years of Christian mission.

"The Holy Spirit is the one who can guide you when you're at that point and asking, 'What's next for me?'" she said. "I'm so glad that I've learned the safest place I could ever be is in the will of God. That's a message in my music for United Methodist Women and all the people of God."

Yvette Moore is editor of United Methodist Women News.

Last Updated: 05/02/2010

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