A Praise and Worship Jubilee

A Praise and Worship Jubilee

PARADIGM SHIFT: Jason Nelson and company during the live recording of 'Shifting the Atmosphere.'

In an endless sea of new music, sometimes it’s easy to put your ears on autopilot and just allow one song to blend into another, one artist into the next. That would be a mistake with the music of pastor and worship leader Jason Nelson. Nelson’s new CD, Shifting the Atmosphere, recorded live in Baltimore, Maryland, is a 12-track gift of praise and worship that you don’t want to consign to that “generic music” category.

A Baltimore native, Nelson understands his music ministry as a “complement to his pastoral assignment” at the Greater Bethlehem Temple Church in Randallstown, Maryland. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that he participates within the worship moment he facilitates for others. At unpredictable moments, he slips into an intimate interval of thanksgiving or a vulnerable profession of love for God. The earnestness of such moments gives credibility to Nelson’s project. Witnessing his “shift” from the posture of worship leader to worshiper invites the listener to undergo a similar internal transition.

The new album has a taut feel — there are no throwaway tracks. Nelson comments on this dynamic, stating that he “worked hard to put together a CD with no fillers.” Each song advances the theme of shifting the atmosphere. “Don’t Count Me Out” is a hopeful affirmation, rooting positive expectation in the conviction that because God doesn’t count us out, neither should we count ourselves out. “No Words” merits special mention. The song elegantly captures an enduring paradox of faith: no concepts adequately describe God’s grandeur, yet we must speak to give voice to the hope of glory that lies within us. “Dominion” is another standout. It acknowledges that external conditions impact our lives, but denies that such circumstances exhaustively determine our lives. Finally, I must note that midway through the project, the listener is treated to a resplendent rendition of the hymn “Love Lifted Me.”

Months ago, I heard Mr. Nelson perform “Jubilee,” one of the album’s opening songs, at Allen Cathedral. He introduced the song by explaining the biblical tradition of Jubilee. Nelson mentioned that Jubilee represents a communal announcement of liberation: forgiving debts, returning land to its original holders, and setting the captives free. Next, he transitioned into a personal — and soul-stirring — appropriation of that tradition with a song of empowerment in the midst of impediments to fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives.

Calling his family his “greatest accomplishment,” Nelson speaks proudly of his wife  Tonya and their children, Jaelyn and Jason Christopher. A skilled singer-songwriter, he composed the majority of the songs on Shifting the Atmosphere. Shifting is an engaging, well-executed, and uplifting album. The Verity Records project was released earlier this week. I wholeheartedly recommend the album to music lovers everywhere, particularly those who appreciate contemporary gospel music.

Check out a recent interview with Pastor Nelson below:

Did Romney Fumble Black Voter Outreach?

Did Romney Fumble Black Voter Outreach?

Romney Calls Education Gap ‘Civil Rights Issue of our Time’

Mitt Romney suggested class size has little bearing on educational outcomes at a West Philadelphia charter school Thursday, The Philadelphia Enquirer reported. “Calling the gap in education performance between black and white students ‘the civil rights issue of our time,’ Romney said quality teaching and parental involvement were the keys to classroom success. He made his comments during a roundtable discussion in the library at Universal Bluford Charter School, an elementary school named for astronaut Guion Bluford and one of five schools run by a nonprofit founded by music mogul Kenny Gamble,” The Enquirer reported. Romeny cited analysis that was done of 351 Massachusetts schools when he was governor to back up his claim, as well as a study by McKinsey Global Institute, but both educators in the room and experts contacted by the paper disagreed, the article said.

Hecklers, Mayor Taunt Romney

Outside the school, the candidate was met by hecklers, The Washington Post reported. “Seeking to broaden his appeal heading into the general election, Romney was venturing for his first time in this campaign into an impoverished black neighborhood …  But here in the streets of West Philadelphia, the emotion surrounding his contest with the nation’s first black president was raw, as dozens of neighborhood residents shouted, ‘Get out, Romney, get out!’” the article said.

Some protesters were organized by the Obama campaign, according to The Post. Whether Democractic mayor Michael Nutter was among them is anyone’s guess, but Nutter told MSNBC host Martin Bashir, “If you want to come to Philadelphia to talk about education, or if you want to talk about issues in a presidential campaign, then your record is going to be examined.”  Nutter also said, “I’m not going to let him or his folks come into our town and dupe people into thinking that he actually knows something about education.”

Romney Promises Federal Funds to Disadvantaged Students

Romney’s visit to the school “gave him the opportunity to see firsthand the type of urban charter school he advocated for” in speech delivered to a Latino business group Wednesay in Washington D.C., Annenberg Digital News reported. “Romney promised that if elected, he would tie federal education funds directly to low-income and special needs students to allow them to attend ‘any public or charter school, or…private school, where permitted'” in that speech, the article said. “The reaction to Romney’s visit to this mostly African-American community” in Philadephia “should not be too surprising,” however, the article said, because, according to an Associated Press GfK poll conducted this month, “90 percent of blacks would vote for Obama in November and just 5 percent would support Romney” and “just 3 percent of blacks said Romney ‘understands the problems of people like you’ better than Obama does.”

Update: The Romney campaign has hired Tara Wall, a former Bush administration official as a senior Romney communications adviser to handle outreach to African Americans, The Washington Post reported. Wall previously worked as a television journalist in Detroit, as a Republican National Committee adviser, a columnist and editor for the Washington Times, and as a CNN contributor, according to the Grio. She told the Grio that “her role would not be just outreach to blacks, but women and other groups, as well as shaping Romney’s overall communications strategy.”

 What do you think?

Does Mitt Romney understand the problems of Black urban voters or was it a political misstep for him to highlight an apparent disconnect?