Famed Christian artists to perform at Arts Centre on Sunday

by W. Winston Skinner

Cynthia Clawson and Ragan Courtney, internationally known Christian musicians, will be in Newnan on Sunday.

The husband and wife are taking part in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly. Those meetings began Wednesday in Atlanta, and Clawson and Courtney are coming to Newnan this weekend to share their musical gifts.

They will be worship leaders for the 10:55 a.m. service at Central Baptist Church. Anne Cronic, the church’s minister of music, said there will be only one worship service at Central on Sunday. Church leaders wanted as many people as possible “to get the opportunity to worship with these two very gifted artists,” she said.

Courtney and Clawson will also be presenting “Prophets, Poets and Psalms” at the Coweta School System’s Centre for Performing and Visual Arts on Sunday. Admission is free for the 3 p.m. program.

Courtney is an acclaimed playwright and poet and the author of “Celebrate Life!” Clawson is a five-time Dove award and Grammy award winning American gospel singer. Clawson and Courtney are “two of the most acclaimed artists on the religious music scene,” Cronic said.

Clawson was once named “the most awesome voice in gospel music” by Billboard Magazine. Her career has spanned more than four decades, and she has 22 recordings to her credit.

She was three years old when her father first asked her to sing in the small church he pastored. Clawson has continued singing in local neighborhood churches – and such venues as London’s Wembley Stadium.

Clawson has been a frequent guest on Bill and Gloria Gaither’s Homecoming Series. Her rendition of “Softly and Tenderly” set the evocative tone for the soundtrack of the Academy Award winning movie, “The Trip to Bountiful.”

Clawson has performed as a guest artist for Grammy-nominated Conspirare, a choral group recognized as the preeminent a cappella choral ensemble in the United States. She's also performed with the Houston Chamber Choir as well as years of singing with church choirs around the world.

A graduate of Howard Payne University with a major in vocal performance and a minor in piano, Clawson was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from her alma mater in 2007.

She received the same honorary degree from Houston Baptist University in 1995.

Courtney first had a poem published when he was a ninth-grader. That event led him into a study of literature and a career as a writer.

After graduating from Louisiana College, Courtney enrolled at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, but left after one semester to study acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York City.

He and his cousin, C.C. Courtney, wrote and starred in a musical, "Earl of Ruston." The play toured the South and opened on Broadway. When the play closed in a week, Ragan Courtney was depressed.

A profound spiritual experience transformed his life. From that experience he wrote “Celebrate Life!" with his friend, Buryl Red. “Celebrate Life” sold more than a million copies and was performed in a wide range of venues.

Courtney and Clawson collaborated in writing "Bright, New Wings. Courtney has also written and published the church musicals: "Beginnings," "Lottie D.," "Acts," "In the Name of the Lord," "Song of Bethlehem," "Angels," "In Obedience" and "Room at the Inn.”

Courtney is the author of five books of poetry. He has taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. and worked for the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tennessee as a drama and worship consultant.

He was director of the Center for Christianity and the Arts at Houston Baptist University. Courtney has conducted workshops on creative worship around the country and written, directed, and performed in plays and pageants for nearly 25 years.

Courtney continues writing, directing and consulting for the theatrical productions of Jeannette Clift George and The Imperial Performing Arts. Courtney and Clawson live in Houston, Texas.

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