Currently serving as the Director of Music and Youth Ministries at Fairview United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Ind., doctoral candidate Marcus Simmons plans to pursue a career as an educator and worship leader, thanks, in part, to a World Communion Sunday scholarship.
World Communion Sunday—God’s Gift Sets Stage for WCS Recipient to Connect with Others through Song, Worship
By Sandra Brands*
The World Communion Scholarship Program of The United Methodist Church supports United Methodist students and students who are directly related to Global Ministries mission partners so that they may carry out their master’s or doctoral studies at universities or seminaries. United Methodists are encouraged to support this program and observe World Communion Sunday on Oct. 5.
Marcus Simmons’ dream of becoming a professor and connecting to others through music and worship was nearly derailed when an Indiana University program was discontinued and he lost his fellowship, which had made up nearly one-third of his aid package.
Thanks to the World Communion Sunday Scholarship Program, Simmons is one step further in realizing that dream.
A doctoral candidate in Voice Performance, Pedagogy and Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington, the Philadelphia native and lifelong United Methodist believes that as a professor, he can lift up students “to their highest potential by showing the love of Christ and empowering them with holy boldness to do the work for which God designed and destined them.”
Simmons in a performance as Pirate King from the Pirates of Penzance.
Photo: Courtesy of Marcus Simmons
“Art exalts the soul and expresses where words frequently fail,” he said, adding he believes all people are artistic. Telling them otherwise is to tell them they do not have self-worth. “This is especially true for children,” he said. “Our creative abilities allow us to grasp complex problems and find mutually beneficial solutions. The arts teach us to value and connect with others, and as social beings, connection is vital to our societal vitality.”
The desire to help reach out to people in the community with recognition of their self-worth began when Simmons was a child, growing up in West Philadelphia, Pa. “I saw poverty, drugs and violence in my community and wanted to help. As a child at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, I learned I could do this with my voice, with music.”
For Simmons, music is a form of Christian mission. “I know of no better way to bond with strangers than through music because it’s the universal language. Our favorite hymns don’t change musically when the words change.
“In my travels from Korean to Africa to Vietnam, it was music that caused strangers to gather, to bond and to leave as friends,” he said. It is through singing and dancing that “we reach out to the sick, the hungry, the dying and bring them comfort and strength. As we all reach to God in song, we reach to one another.”
Without the scholarship or the relationship with Global Ministries, he said, he would not be able to complete his doctoral studies or be the best steward of his gifts. The Global Ministries scholarship and his evolving relationship with the United Methodist mission agency keeps him “connected to other believers, which encourages me to go farther and broaden my horizons so God can continue to use me in various new ways.”
Simmons continues to put his gifts to use, not only as a performer and student, but also as a music teacher and as the Director of Music and Youth Ministries at Fairview United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Ind. It is a gift he will continue to share on stage, in the classroom and with the global community thanks, in part, to a scholarship supported by the offerings of United Methodists on World Communion Sunday.
*Sandra Brands is a writer and regular contributor to www.umcmission.org.