GRACE music ministry celebrated 20 years in October. Members are thankful for the blessings through the years including the family which has been formed.
Two longstanding members of GRACE spoke to the Catholic News.
Christopher Phillips said he had a dream in which Atherly Nicholas was “doing something with music on stage”. When he contacted Nicholas about the dream he found out about the formation of GRACE. “He invited me to a meeting/practice in Chaguanas which I attended, only to find out that it was at the home of one of my best customers from many years ago at the bank—Peter Ford. That was 20 years ago”.
Phillips described GRACE as over time becoming more than a music ministry: it is family. He added that it comprised “quite a number” of families and a couple of them have had their “genesis within the group”.
Phillips, a coordinator for GRACE, sings, plays the guitar, sometimes the drums and generally does “whatever else is necessary”.
Many persons have at one time or another been members but he said “we seem to have settled with the membership that we currently have”. One thing is unchanged he emphasised, “GRACE music Ministry has always been about glorifying God in our music, and with all that we are. Our purpose and our mission are in our name—Glorious Rhythms Acclaiming Christ Eternal-Love (GRACE)”. This mission has taken them regionally and to North America, South America and Europe.
Phillips said being part of the ministry has definitely helped his faith to grow and challenged him to be a better musician for Christ. “It is a tremendous blessing to have been a part of this family for all these years”.
Atherly Nicolas joined GRACE at a time of flux in his life. He had left his job; his second daughter was just born; and he did not have another job lined up yet. He knew he wanted to do something for the Lord and trusted God would take care of him and his family. One day in chatting with friend Fr Urban Hudlin OP, Nicholas said, “he heard in my heart a desire to do more for the Church in terms of music and unknown to me, apparently other people were speaking to him in a similar vein so he brought us together and we met for the first time in 2000.”
Atherly said GRACE has been an “incredible journey”. He reflects that it was a group of individuals who came together, practised and were joined by other musicians. In the beginning, GRACE did not have dedicated musicians. Atherly said: “We had to hire people to do ministry with us in the early days when we had something major to do but gradually over time, we developed our own musicians and that was an incredible thing”.
In the past, GRACE hosted concerts with the theme The Prodigal. It raised funds to buy the group’s first sound equipment and a drum set but Atherly said they are not about concerts and fundraisers; God has been taking care of them. He added, “We have been faithful in our mission which is: To love the Lord our God, and to make His name known through music and by our lives, of course.”
GRACE has been invited to do music ministry across the Archdiocese and at primary and secondary schools. They have done retreats for Secondary Entrance Assessment classes and been asked to contribute at graduations. The COVID-19 pandemic has not halted the demand for their ministry. Atherly said, “things are still happening and we are still quietly going about what we have to do, most of it by Zoom of course.”
Articulating what he thinks makes GRACE different from other ministries he commented that People of Praise is a prayer community, St Anthony’s Point Fortin is a parish music ministry but the members of GRACE did not necessarily belong to music ministries.
“People go back to their parishes and do whatever activity they involved in but once we are needed as a ministry, we are able to come together,” he said.
Seeing the younger members display their talent is gratifying for the persons involved. Atherly said, “What people aren’t aware of is several of our young members are involved in music in their own right in their parishes”. Some members are pursuing music at university. He anticipates that when society is a bit freer from the COVID restrictions, the younger ones will be more visible. He mentioned a boy who started with GRACE in Form One at secondary school and has developed musically playing the traps. Atherly said, “I know I can rely on him to provide the rhythm that we need in terms of the drums; there are a few other children.”
His own daughters have grown up with GRACE, and involvement has provided many moments for togetherness as family. “We travelled together with the group as family and anything we did we did as family that has been an amazing experience for us”.
He did not venture to predict what the future holds saying it was all in God’s hands. Atherly voiced confidence that, “once music is to be used as a tool to bring God’s people together and to help break down barriers, GACE is always ready and available”.