Submitted by Dr. Melinda Harris-Peoples
Special to the New Journal and Guide
On November 15, 2015, the local chapter of the National Presbyterian Black Caucus hosted the New Horizons Music Ministries at Community Presbyterian Church in Portsmouth, VA. The other Black Presbyterian churches that supported this occasion are Covenant Presbyterian Church, Carver Presbyterian Church, First United Presbyterian Church, and Messiah Presbyterian Church. Rev. Wilbur Douglass, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church, said that they were delighted to sponsor the event.
New Horizons Music Ministries was established in 1992 by Rev. Lloyd Stephenson, an African-American Catholic priest who was the chaplain at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. He wanted to improve the service and care for recovering alcohol and drug addicts above and beyond the hospital’s normal treatment protocol. His answer to this situation was New Horizons Music Ministries.
This music ministry is distinctive in that it is composed of individuals who have three things in common: they are honorably discharged Veterans of our nation’s armed forces; they are all recovering substance abusers; and they have turned their lives over to God.
Starting with just twelve members, New Horizons’ growth and progression is, and continues to be, miraculous. There are now more than thirty active members, both men and women. To become a member of New Horizons, an individual must be an honorably discharged veteran from the U.S. military, must be actively practicing recovery, and must undergo a probationary period during which they, and the executive staff of New Horizons, determine whether or not they are willing to make the necessary commitment to this ministry. (newhorizonsmusicministries.org)
The concert was inspirational and uplifting. The group sang some traditional hymns such as “Amazing Grace,” “Living testimony,” “God is,” and “He’s an Ontime God.” The audience responded very positively to the music by standing, clapping, and singing along with the group.
The entire concert was excellent; however; there were three highlights. One was a medley, “Americana,” of military songs. They sang excerpts from all of the anthems of each branch of the armed forces complete with salutes, great enthusiasm, and patriotism.
The second was a mime dance performed by their youth minister, sixteen-year old James A. McDaniel, Jr., Clothed in a blue robe, with a white sash, white gloves, and a white facial mask, he performed a mime dance to “Break Every Chain.” The dance was a physical demonstration of a spiritual experience. The motions were both soft and strong, definite and fluid. The audience’s response was very enthusiastic.
The third highlight was one of their members, Paul Chung, who played the leaves of a plant with his mouth, and it sounded like a saxophone. That’s right, I said he played the leaves of a plant and it sounded like a saxophone. The audience’s reaction was disbelief at first, then sheer joy.
Priscilla Minter, the group’s manager indicated that by using spiritual music, they attempt to reach out to others in dealing with the devastating social problems of alcohol and drugs, and the impact addiction has on the lives of the substance abuser, his/her family and friends, and the community as a whole. Through their musical outreach ministry they deliver a message of hope for substance abusers and, at the same time, they honor our nation’s veterans. (newhorizonsmusicministries.org)
According to its website, New Horizons has a busy schedule, and has performed for a wide variety of audiences in the surrounding community, and throughout Virginia and other states. These include military groups, political groups, service organizations, government groups, churches, civic organizations, congressional representatives, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Governor of Maryland, the Mayor of Hampton, the Bishop of Richmond, private receptions, schools, sororities, fraternities, ministers’ conferences, and many others.
They have won numerous local, state, and national competitions in the performing arts since first starting. In 1997, they were the subject of an in-depth television documentary entitled “How I Got Over,” and in May, 2001, they completed recording a CD entitled “Sending Up Our Timbers.”
In conclusion, if you have the opportunity to see this group, do. You will be inspired and revived.
For additional information, contact newhorizonsmusicministries.org.