America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
It is the fervent prayer of the people of God that we know His grace when we stumble as citizens of our country. We add to that prayer that He would send us His Spirit such that we would regard one other as brothers and sisters in a unified family. Finally, we pray that God would know honor and love from American’s citizens.
We are a grateful people, blessed to live in such a land that allows us to worship our God freely and openly without fear of reprisal. Today we listen to these songs by Americans and about America which remind us of our many blessings, and with great hope, we pray that they will spark within us a common desire to see mercy, justice, and a pervasive love flourish in our hearts and flow in our community.
Jillian Gardner is an award-winning performing organist with an international touring schedule that spans the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S. She is also the National Convener for the American Guild of Organists Young Organists as well as the Director of Music at First United Methodist Church in Huntsville, AL, where she serves as primary organist and oversees more than 10 ensembles for adults and children. Gardner, a native of Rome, NY, is a two-time first-prize winner of the chapter level competition of the Regional Competition for Young Organists (in Buffalo and Albany). In 2017, she took second prize in the Québec organ competition in Québec, Canada; she has also been a finalist in the Arthur Poister competition in Syracuse.
In recognition of her achievements, The Diapason magazine selected Gardner as one of the inaugural “Top 20 under 30” organists in the nation. Gardner has worn her signature pink organ shoes in concerts in venues including Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, and St. Thomas 5th Avenue in New York City. She has dazzled listeners in the U.K. at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, St. Paul Cathedral in London, and St. Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol, and she has been honored as featured artist for the Organ Historical Society Conventions in Syracuse, NY (2014) and Minneapolis, MN (2017). A graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory (B.M.; James David Christie) and Baylor University (M.M., Advanced Performer’s Certificate; Isabelle Demers), Gardner’s other teachers include Olivier Latry, Hank Knox and Hans-Ola Ericsson at the McGill Summer Organ Academy in Montréal. Outside the organ loft, Gardner advocates physical fitness, believing that a healthy mind and body contribute to artistic quality. Connect with Jillian at JillianGardner.net.