International inspirational singer Wintley Phipps helped start the July 4th week in Chattanooga Sunday night with a Gospel - Patriotic concert at the historic First Presbyterian Church on McCallie Avenue. The large auditorium was packed with only a few empty seats.
Mr. Phipps opened the program with “The Lord Prayer” saying “Jesus wrote the words”. Other selections included Fanny Crosbys, “He Hideth My Soul”, his own version of “Amazing Grace” which he labeled the sinners national anthem and a tribute to the late George Beverly Shea who made famous “How Great Thou art”.
Mr. Phipps sang several patriotic selections including the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. He was backed up by the First Presbyterian Church choir led by Kelly Luther Stultz. They also sang a rousing version of the spiritual, Amen.
Mr. Phipps was born in Trinidad. He spent time in Canada and later came to the United States, studying at the Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala. At the age of 16 Mr. Phipps said he surrendered his life to Christ. He became an ordained Seventh Day Adventist minister.
Mr. Phipps shared stories of his 25-year association with the late Dr. Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows and Mr. Shea. He said Mr. Barrows was passed on a cassette he had given an Eastern Airlines stewardess. Mr. Phipps said Mr. Barrows called him three weeks later saying Mr. Graham was interested in his singing during his crusades. Mr. Phipps echoed what a lot of have said that “he never heard or saw these three godly men arguing or disagree.” He said they spent many hours in prayer.
Mr. Phipps said he met Chuck Colson of Watergate fame and became interested in his prison ministry. Mr. Colson named him to the board of directors. Mr. Colson’s influence led Mr. Phipps to start the U.S. Dream Academy, a program for children that are a high risk for incarceration. Mr. Phillps said upon hearing of this program, television star Oprah Winfrey became interested and has contributed millions of dollars.
Mr. Phipps said he has spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C. ministering to officials. Retired Senator Orrin Hatch has become one of his best friends writing several songs for the singer. Mr. Phipps has sung for six presidents beginning with Jimmy Carter.
During the two-hour concert, Mr. Phipps received several standing ovations. Dr. Tom Hammett and one of his daughters had front row seats capturing a few priceless pictures. Dr. Hammett and Mr. Phipps have been friends for years.