Wintley Phipps

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BOB ABERNETHY, anchor:  As Christians celebrate Easter and their belief that Jesus rose from the dead, hope is a central theme.  Hope also has been prominent in the life and music of Gospel singer Wintley Phipps.  Phipps has been performing for more than 30 years.  He got rave reviews in January when he sang at President Obama’s Inaugural Prayer Service.  He doesn’t do a lot of interviews, but he did sit down with Kim Lawton.

Pastor WINTLEY PHIPPS (singing at National Prayer Service, Washington National Cathedral):  “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound . . .”

KIM LAWTON:  Grammy-nominated Gospel singer Wintley Phipps is a familiar voice at big national events.  At President Barack Obama’s National Prayer Service following his Inauguration, Phipps’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” brought the entire National Cathedral audience, including the new president and first lady, to their feet. But he says it’s just as meaningful to him when he sings in places like prisons.

Pastor  PHIPPS:  There is a sense that you’re giving hope to people who really need it.

LAWTON:  For Phipps, who is also a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, music is a ministry and, he says, one of the deepest expressions of his Christian faith.

“I would dream that I was flying to faraway places in the world and meeting important people when I was six, seven years old”.

Pastor PHIPPS:  Music is almost to me an echo of the sounds of the divine world.  And when you hear these sounds, it stirs something deeply spiritual within you.  Music also is the most powerful way of impressing the human mind with hope.

LAWTON:  Hope has been a hallmark not only of Phipps’s musical career, but in his charitable efforts as well.  In 1998, Phipps founded the Dream Academy, a national nonprofit for at-risk kids.  Born in Trinidad, he says hope was crucial in overcoming his own at-risk childhood.

Pastor PHIPPS:  I was born to a troubled home, and I used to get away from my parents’ troubles — I had a little red tricycle, and I’d go in the back yard of my house and I would turn the tricycle on its side and use one of the backside wheels as a steering wheel, and I would sit there for hours, and I would dream that I was flying to faraway places in the world and meeting important people when I was six, seven years old.  And then I wanted to be like Tom Jones.  I’d go around the house singing “It’s not unusual to be loved.” I just wanted to be Tom. But something was missing to me.

LAWTON: Despite a difficult family life, Phipps says his mother always prayed for him and told him that God had a special plan for his life. As a teenager, Phipps embraced her faith as his own.

Pastor PHIPPS: At the age of 16, God walked into my life and said “I’ve seen your dreams. Give me your dreams, and I’ll let you see what I’ve been dreaming for you.”

LAWTON:  He attended an historically black Seventh-day Adventist college in Alabama, where he met Linda, now his wife of 32 years. Then, Phipps says, God began providing opportunities for him to sing in national venues such as a 1984 appearance on “Saturday Night Live” with Jesse Jackson. He came to the attention of Billy Graham’s team and became a frequent performer at the evangelist’s crusades.

Pastor PHIPPS (singing in Washington):  Talk about a child that do love Jesus.

One of the most exciting things that can ever happen in a child’s life is to know that “you mean God thinks about me, or God dreams about me?”

LAWTON: Phipps also became a favorite in Washington. He’s sung for every president since Ronald Reagan.

Pastor PHIPPS: I’ve never had a manager or never had an agent, and yet some of the most wonderful moments that a singer could ever dream of have happened to me, and I believe it’s providential.

LAWTON:  The idea for the Dream Academy came after he got involved with a prison ministry.

Pastor PHIPPS:  I did not know that so many young men in prison looked like my sons, and when I saw it I was shaken. One of every three young black men in America between the ages of 18 and 30 are in prison today or supervised by the court system either on probation or parole.

LAWTON:  Phipps then learned that 60 percent of the young people who end up in prison are the children of prisoners. He wanted to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration.  The Dream Academy offers after-school mentoring and interactive academic tutoring to children of prisoners and kids falling behind at school.

Pastor PHIPPS: One of the most exciting things that can ever happen in a child’s life is to know that “you mean God thinks about me, or God dreams about me and he’s got a dream for my life?” And when you catch a little glimpse of what that dream is, wow, it changes everything.

LAWTON:  Phipps has enlisted the support of some of his famous connections for the project.  One of his biggest benefactors is his longtime friend Oprah Winfrey. The lesson of faith, he says, is that things aren’t always as they seem and that hardship can be overcome.  In these uncertain economic times, he’s released a new music DVD called “No Need to Fear.”  For Phipps, it ties back to the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus.

Pastor PHIPPS:  To know that I can put my faith in someone who walked out of a grave. The Easter message to me is a message of tremendous hope, and if we don’t have to fear death, what else is there that should cause us to fear? Nothing.

(singing at Easter event):  Arise my love.  Arise my love.  The grave no longer has a hold on you.

LAWTON:  It’s a theme he finds throughout the old spirituals that he often performs.

“A lot of people don’t realize that just about all Negro spirituals are written on the black notes of the piano.”

Pastor PHIPPS (singing):  Swing low sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home . . .

The Negro spiritual teaches us that you’re going come up rough sides of mountains, and you’re going to have difficulties.  But faith gives you that ability to weather any storm.

(singing):  I looked over Jordan and what did I see?

LAWTON:  It’s the core theme as well for the song that has become his signature, “Amazing Grace.”  He finds great spiritual lessons in the history of the song.

Pastor PHIPPS:  A lot of people don’t realize that just about all Negro spirituals are written on the black notes of the piano, and they just keep recurring. Probably the most famous white spiritual that’s built on this slave scale was written by a man by the name of John Newton who, before he became a Christian, used to be the captain of a slave ship and many believe heard this melody that sounds very much like a West African sorrow chant (hums “Amazing Grace”). And it has a haunting, haunting plaintive quality to it that reaches past your arrogance, past your pride, and it speaks to that part of you that’s in bondage, and we feel it.  We feel it.  It’s just one of the most amazing melodies in all of human history.

(performing “Amazing Grace” on stage): To sing God’s praise than when we’ve  first begun. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Amen.

LAWTON: Another lesson, he says, on how hope always triumphs. I’m Kim Lawton in Vero Beach, Florida.

  • Ray Young

    I wish you would interview someone from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, headquartered in Silver Spring, MD 301-680-6000 on what they believe. should be very interesting.

    Thanks, Ray Young

  • Godfrey Mugova

    Pastor Phipps well done keep up the good work your are doing for the Kingdom may God bless you, your family and your Ministry
    with regards,
    Godfrey Mugova ( my email address is as follows:}

  • Elizabeth V. Kane

    This was a powerful interview. It is wonderful not to simply know the Negro spiritual, but to understand it. There is power in this depth of knowledge that transcends the adjective preceding spiritual. May God bless Pastor Phipps and Channel 13 for airing this episode of Religion and Ethics.

  • marthabrown

    Pastor Phipps I Martha Brown has always’ gotten the chance too listen too your God given talent God has Blessed you and your faimly and me i want to thank you so much and i know you wilbe and that you will see God thak you always with love Martha Brown.

  • Tessie Belue

    I would like to know more about his Dream Academy. I am very impressed and would like to share his story and that of the academy with others. How does he hire his teachers?

  • Mary McBee

    I’ve always loved ‘Amazing Grace’, but not the words. As a result, I have a Native American version w/words that I don’t understand, and love it much more. How interesting to find out that this powerful tune was actually an African death chant…one usurped by Keyes, overwritten by him with Christian words/concepts, with no credit given to the origins. And why is that not surprising?

  • Marcia Getfield

    Your ministry is a belssing. You have truly lived your moto that “you don’t have to compromise to be recognized”. May God continue to use you.

  • Lucy Greene

    Pastor Phipps — Blessed by God thru Christ Jesus with a powerful, inspirational voice in praises to God. As a 7th Day Adventist, we believe in the Bible, the whole Bible — Jesus Christ as our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer.

  • Nyauma Nyasani

    THanks Pr Phipps. I am always touched with the work you are doing. I want to invite you to my church (Mariakani Adventist Church)in Kenya so that more of my friends/people benefit from your song service. How can I contact you (e-mail address). God bless you and your work.

  • Anthony Reid

    Delighted! That is how am feeling right now as a fellow colleague in Ministry. And why? Because from this interview God is speaking, reminding all of humanity that when one honors Him, they will ride on the high places of the earth, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. Let us remember though that all glory belongs to him. Am praying for you Pastor Phipps, your family and ministry. To God be the glory!

  • Pete Resz

    Mary the old authors of books or music all felt that you were well enough read or versed to know who had written. It is in the age of electronics that we have forgotten how to read. We sit transfixed in front of a machine rather than letting our minds be exercised as we read what another person’s sees or hears.

    Besides that the law did not require the credit to be given as to who had first come up with the idea. “Everything that needs to have been said has been said, but since no one was listening it needs to be said again.” I do not know who said it but is sooooo true.

  • rene mcallister

    I thank you,Pastor Phipps for sharing how your dreams and aspirations, through faith in Christ Jesus, came to fruition. It gives hope to anyone – willing. Enjoy watching you from time to time on the 3ABN channel. Is your music available for purchase in our Adventist Book Stores? May God continue to bless you more than you could ever hope for. Amen and Amen

  • Victoria

    His CD’S are available at Adventist Book Centers nation wide, thanks.

  • Hazel Riley

    To God be the glory! Thank you Lord for what you have done in the life of this gentleman. I love Wintley Phipps, his ministry and his music. He has been an inspiration even to many persons, young and old, who have never met him personally.

    I am proud to be a Seventh-day Adventist and to know that we have brethren of that caliber.

  • Martha Newbold

    Thank you, Kim Lawton, for sharing not only the aired interview but the extended interview as well. I believe Wintley Phipps is Providentially used by God ‘for such a time as this.’ He is a ray of hope.

  • Liisa Fults

    Thank you Pr. Phipps. May God continue to use you. How can we send a donation to your school. I knew your mother briefly in Willowdale, Ont. She was living in the Gold Finch Apts. A Godly Woman for Jesus. Sincerely,
    Liisa Fults-My husband is a pastor in the Oregon S.D.A. conference, but we are soon relocating to the IIIinois conference, to the Chicago Area.



  • Chavez Hines

    I wont to know all about Wintley Phipps.

  • Gloria White-Cooper

    I have enjoyed this inspiring article and interview on Whitley Phipps. Seeing how God has used and is using him for his service. He had many hard days even in Los Angeles trying to get to College. He never let go of God and he has richly blessed him. May he continue to work for God and his dreams will go on for other young people.When they hold on to God.

  • Gale Laidler

    I have enjoyed Pastor Phipps music minstry for many, many years! I thank God for using his voice to inspire and bless so many hungry souls who are looking for answers and hope in this troubled world! Thank you PBS for showcasing such a talented, giving and God-fearing man.

  • Stanley

    Pastor Wintley Phipps is a man of God and his music has inspired thousands,yea, millions. Thank you for using your God given gifts to edify God’s people. Trinidad and Tobago is proud of its Son Wintley Augustus Phipps.

  • Andrea

    The Trini with the unforgettable voice and he has a passion for breaking the circle of incarceration. This is a manifestation of what God can do.
    W O W

  • Adrian Whittaker

    I can’t believe he never had a manager or an agent…on second thought; GOD is his manager/agent “he placed a dream with in his heart…” look at this link how God has used him

  • Stanley

    This Trinidadian is an amazing singer. He would have been an excellent calypsonian but he is using his God given talent for a higher service

  • Al

    Let’s get the history of the song correct.
    Newton supplied the lyrics, but the tune sung today arrived much later. Turner says that in Newton’s day, the song would have been sung “to another song that fit its meter” — if it were sung at all. And “Amazing Grace” continued to be associated with a number of different tunes throughout much of the 19th century. In 1835, “…the tune that we now sing… was married to the words of John Newton,” Turner says. That same year a South Carolina singing instructor named William Walker published a widely popular hymn book combining the now-familiar tune with Newton’s words.

    I also found several references to the melody being Irish or Scottish and seemed to be written for the bagpipes. The melody was originally taken from a tune called “New Britain”.

  • Marcia Robson

    I thank God that Mr. Phipps uses his voice to praise the Living God; and my hope is that everyone who hears his songs will be touched and drawn to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Continue lifting up the Lord in song of praise, Mr. Phipps. God bless you and your family.

  • Fern

    From an 80’s album Color of Love, I need/want/desire to get either sheet music and/or accomp. tracks for HE IS ABLE (written by Jon Mohr, as sung by Phipps.) Anyone have any ideas?

  • Barney Ellingson

    WHAT a MOVER. Relly has talant.



  • Jerry Foss

    Praise God… what a strong witness… a real privilege to hear of this man of God. A real valueable ministry also… Kairos is a great ministry inside prisons… you have a program to break the cycle… praise God for this man and his ministries… WOW!

  • Pj Nicholls

    God bless you! I know when we all get to heaven your crown will be overflowing with stars because of the Love you have given her on earth.

  • Judith Barnes

    For years I have been watching Pastor (did not know he was a pastor then) Phipps and have been blessed with his voice and that smile that makes me want to smile too. I felt he was from the islands and I finally confirmed it tonight. I am always in awe of the talent of others and love, absolutely love his vocal range, beauty and strength. One of my favorite and most meaningful Bible verses is Jeremiah 29:11, some people dream when they are children,like Pastor Phipps, but sometimes he delays the dreams of others for His own reasons; either way, whether we dream dreams when we are young or old, when they are His dreams, they will be brought to fruition. Our only responsibility is to be available to do our part, rise to the occasion and always, always, give God the Glory. I believe every time Pastor Phipps sings, he is giving God the Glory and I am grateful I get to hear him do so. Be blessed sir.

  • Natacha HENRY

    Thank you so much Pr. Phipps for the song ‘I give you my life”. I was very young when i first heard it in Paris – France, where I live. My mother loved it so much. And then, as a mother, I also can found strengh, joy and comfort in its words.
    To God be the glory. Happy sabbath day.

  • Earnestine Henry

    Dr. Phillips when I look at the blessing of God in your life, it gives all of our people hope. It also shows god has no favoritism, we all who except him as our savior has the opportunity to be what ever God has gifted us to be. Hard work and faith can take us to the other side. May God continue to bless you with good health. Blessings also to your family.

  • elizabeth swenson

    Dr. Phipps video was an emotional, spiritual experience. Never did I realize the roots of gospel muusic was played out all on the black notes(sharps) on the piano, but the music of Amazing Grace on the white notes(flats)by a white man.Dr. Phipps rendition of Amazing Grace as a slave would hum,reached my soul.

  • Gweirydd Lewis

    Dear Sir. I would love to see Wintley Phipps produce a video singing “Arise My Love” accompanied with some suitable graphics. Blessings G.Lewis

  • Yasmin Bowman

    Amazing Grace is my favourite song in the whole wide world. And everytime I hear Wintley Phipps’ performance of it I fall in love with it all over again. I myself have sung this song on numerous occasions at church and at funerals and every time it was done, it has been a blessing to those listening. I’m really proud to be a Seventh-day Adventist..

  • ShaRon McKee

    Mr. Phipps is an amazing man. he has been given an extraordinary life and a fantastic journey. i am proud
    and greatful for the opportunity to know about him. May GOD continue to guide and bless him, His story has inspired me tremendously.

  • Maryann Barrow

    Pastor Phipps …Thank you for reminding me to dream. Your stories have made me realize how important a dream or a goal can be. I am going to put that possiblity into fruition.
    Many blessings.

  • Roy Cooper

    I watched Wintley Phipps performing Amazing Grace and listened to his story on John Newton and the origin of Amazing Grace. It inspired me to write this song ‘Where The Devil Lurked’.

    It is about the life and redemption of John Newton.

    I was hoping that maybe Wintley would like it enough to sing, but have found it almost impossible to reach him.

    if anyone wants a listen.

    God Bless

  • Gweiryd Lewis

    Dear Brother. When will Wintley Phipps produce a video singing Arise My Love. What about this Easter. Hopefully G.Lewis

  • latoya newsome

    I can remember my teenage years watching television, flipping through the channels and coming to a halt as
    the sound of a 12 foot angle pierced through the t.v. speakers singing the songs of old. I was not so much interested in that particular style of music at the time, but that sound… so powerful, so moving, so inspirational..I love to hear you sing and to hear you tell the stories behind the songs. You are a TRUE blessing to the body!

  • Ernest Lowe

    Pastor Phipps, I did a You Tube search for Mahilia Jackson to hear her sing Amazing Grace, I scrolled down to hear you do the history and then the song. I have been listening to it ever since. WOW, there is something about the way you sing it recalling how John Newton must have heard it that goes all through me.

  • Evelyn Prevost Naylor

    Pastor Phipps, Praise God for his blessing. He is worthy to be praise.

    I shared this video with my military co-workers, family and friends. I included my maiden name to see if you remember me. Give my love to Linda. I would like to share with my fellow christians, God has a blessing with your name on it.

  • Jerry Washington

    I 1st encountered Pastor Phipps in Ft.Lauderdale, FL.when he sanged at Broward Community college hours before his 1st child was born! I attended Oakwood College in the 80s and I heard him sing,I give u my life…..being an urban cowboy,I was taken aback by his style and grace! I grew up Listening to Andrae Crouch,The Hawkins family,and james Cleveland and now this eloquent,powerful singer,Wintley Phipps! Thank GOD 4 the dream Academy!

  • David Disher

    I am proud to be Amased to find out about Whitney Phipps is so involved in spreadind the Word Of Jesus Christ with the Music and the words about My Favorite Song. It is still my Favorite song and will always be my Favorite Song. I was raised in an Old Southern White Christian home and this was one of the most Favorie songs of most of the Churches where we Attended, Ther have been so many white American Christians that expresse their Love for this Song and told their Family would have this Song sung at their Funeral, parting from this Life to the next and they only wanted to depart from this life to the next with this Songbeing Sung at btheir Departing. Today is October 25, 2011 and this is the best History Lesson I have ever experienced. I only want to Thank God and thank all of the people who helped Whitney come along with His Life and his Christian Music. I plann to obtain this music on tapes to help me get along with in this life and Thanks to Whitney for Spreading Gods Word through His Christian Faith and Christian Music, Regards, David Disher 112 S. Glenn St, Stoneville, North Carolina 27048

  • Chris Ales

    You have moved me Whitney Phipps, and given me renewed faith when I heard this interview. What a wonderful voice the Lord has given you to share with others and help. You are blessed.

  • Meredith

    I’ve never heard that spirituals were based on the five black piano keys. Very interesting. I hope Wintley Phipps continues to work with the children of inmates. Anything that can be done to keep them from following in their parents footsteps! Keep up the good work.

  • Marylou

    What a beautiful spirit of good will for so many……… inspiring talk……and so real and sincere! Would be a wonderful world if we all had such a beautiful spirit…….

  • Ann Thompson

    I am on the Executive Board of the Greenville Chapter of the NAACP, where our President is Mr. Clarence Echols. Every year in November our chapter sponsors a non profit Freedom Fund Banquet and have been blessed to have special keynote speakers like President Obama (2007).
    I would like to humbly request that Mr. Phipps be our 2012 keynote speaker and singer!!
    This would be one of our chapters most spectacular banquets.

    Ann Thompson

  • JLTrim

    I was forwarded this and it is very interesting. THis is to show us how God is real and He has a purpose for each and any of us as long as we allow Him to lead us. I am happy to note a country man is doing such a gifted work as he serves the Lord. May God continue to shine His face upon you and your family and ministry.

  • Wilna Gresham

    What a moving and emotional voice . I could listen to you forever. Most white people have Amazing Grace at Church and especially funerals, and didn’t know about the songs origin.. I sent this by e-mail to friends and family , and did not realize you were Adventist until I read over all of this. I told them on the e-mail that you will cry!! You have truly moved me.! God Bless You,, Wilna Gresham SDA Loganville, Georgia

  • Marion Lourant

    This is the most touching, powerful,and informative history and performance about the song, “Amazing Grace,” I’ve ever heard, especially your interpretation of a possible source of the melody. Thank you for sharing your ministry, your gift, and your insight regarding black notes and tunes of Negro Spiriturals. Thank you.

  • Helen

    Pastor P. That was just incredible we need more.

  • Catharine Faucett

    Many nights, when the house is quiet, I turn the computer on and just listen to this Godley man, Wintney Phipps,
    sing from his heart a song that was origionated in the heart of a slave ship’s captain. Our God is so good.

  • Modeane Thompson

    Minister Phipps–

    God gave you an Amazing gift… Thank you for sharing it with America and reminding us all of the blessings which we share because of God’s Grace.

  • Lou Ann Sackett

    Pastor P., I just happened to be checking my facebook page today
    and a friend had posted your youtube version of “Amazing Grace” . Well, I should have got out the kleenex box right away because my heart was overwhelmed. You truly have a gift. I may never meet you on this earth but I will in heaven where even those of us who do not sing will be part of the heavenly choir!! Amazing Grace, Indeed, that saved a wretch like me. AMEN!

  • Patty Roth

    Thank you Wintley Phipps for glorifying the Lord with your voice, your message, your soul! I called my husband in to listen to Amazing Grace and he wants to share it with the class he is teaching at church as part of what he teaches! I just posted it to my facebook wall. I had no idea about the “black keys” and you are absolutely right. This music touches my soul–moving past any arrogance and pride to the center of who I am. Thank you!

  • Shirley Lange

    What an awesome version of Amazing Grace. I live in Western Australia and a friend sent me the email and like so many – wept. So many links in faith – I became a Christian in 1959 at Billy Grahams (first overseas crusade to Australia) in Western Australia.

  • raine leonce

    wow i live in england and today is the first time i have ever heard of you and what you do. i love your voice when you talk and when you sing. your words are so inspiring and have brought a smile to a depressed ladys face. i shall log on again for guidence. may God bless you and all whom you touch, raine leonce

  • Lee Duncan

    God bless you Wilntley, what a blessing to here. You sing Amazing Griace I lost my HERING in one era and one eye, but I can see his AMAZING GRACE thouth you Thank so very much .

    I’m am a Actor & singer , now when I sing it I’m going to fill it thank to you I going to know from we’re it came
    A MAN

  • Jackie Williams

    You are an amazing preacher, God Bless you for sharing your gift with people of all color. I wish there were more preachers out there like you. I love the way the gospel is song in the old south churches, it touches my soul.
    God Bless

  • Dr. Sharon E. Williams

    Thank you, and God bless you Wintley, and it is such a joy to watch the videos. God had led me to some of what you shared, especially about the black keys – and I had forgotten it or maybe simple embraced it – My husband and I have been involved in prision ministry and you are so right about manifesting much love in the home as well as to the prisoners. God is so awesome in how He has purposed us all to be free and to be in Love, living moving and having our being. Continue on your calls and missions, and prayers go up for you and yours for continued grace, mercy, peace, joy and safety. Check out my/our websites: and
    In Christ Jesus forever!
    Dr. Sharon

  • Neomie Toussaint-Williams

    Hi Mr. Phipps,
    I just came from your concert. I used to own an accompaniment tract of the song He’s Able. Now I can’t find it and would like to once again be able to sing it with the music. How can I get an accompaniment track of this music that has been and is a blessing for so many?

  • Charles Granade

    Mr. Phipps,
    I just heard your song “He Is Able” and was really moved by its power. Is there someway to obtain the sheet music? I am constantly looking for new songs to sing and would very must like to add this particular one. hanking you in advance.