Blessed are the Peacemakers

January 31, 2023

On the weekend of January 28-29, two celebrations of worship and music at Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City featured three prominent Berkeley alumni: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Matt Heyd, and Andy Barnett.

On Saturday evening, Matt Heyd ‘96, rector of Heavenly Rest and bishop-elect of New York, welcomed Bishop Curry ’78 and special guests Theodicy Jazz Collective, led by composer and pianist Andy Barnett ’12, who joined the Heavenly Rest Choir in the worship service, “Blessed are the Peacemakers: A Festival of Sacred Song.”  A year in the planning, the powerful event was all the more poignant and timely given the nation’s recent spate of gun violence and the tragic death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of police in Memphis. At the heart of the worship service were selections from the Canterbury Jazz Mass, composed by Barnett and William Cleary when Barnett was an ISM student at YDS/Berkeley. Barnett, currently the musical director at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta, gathers the Theodicy Jazz Collective–seven instruments and a vocalist– several times a year for performances throughout the country, including last winter’s meeting of the Episcopal Parish Network (formerly CEEP) in Atlanta. The bravura finale to their worship programs is typically the Toccata from Widor’s Symphony No. 5, played as a duet with the church’s organ, which in this case was Heavenly Rest’s 137-rank, 8000-pipe Austin Organ. The Heavenly Rest Choir is under the direction of Heavenly Rest’s Director of Music Janet Yieh, who during her time at Yale was the director of music for Berkeley Divinity School.

The following morning, Bishop Curry delivered a powerful sermon at Heavenly Rest’s worship services, based on Jesus’s declaration to his disciples: “You will be my witnesses”(Acts 1:8). Bishop Curry’s sermon is available here.