GTS Admissions Director Uses Rock Music Talent for Evangelism

Billy Webster
Photo: Andrew Ashley

William C. Webster, Director of Admissions at The General Theological Seminary, is a singer and songwriter who is spending part of this summer expanding twelve original rock songs based on the Lord’s Prayer into an hour-long theatrical piece.

The work will debut in the spring of 2014 in Brooklyn with a live performance to be filmed by Long Island filmmaker Max Chance and include an accompanying soundtrack album, which Webster is producing with longtime collaborators Carl Basler (lead guitar) and Jesse Maynard (drums).

Funded by a grant from the Episcopal Evangelical Education Society (EEES), the creative project has emerged out of Webster’s meditation practice. Last year, Webster began using the Lord’s Prayer as the basis for a twelve-week meditation, with each week devoted to a single line in the prayer. “Being a songwriter, I began to write songs for each line, based on where my heart and mind were going during the meditations,” Webster said. “I discovered that I was arising each day with ideas about what might exist in between each line—what experiences might have influenced the crafting of the prayer.” Webster also began to experiment with the text of the prayer, for example by writing it in reverse, to discover new insights. Between May and November of 2012, Webster wrote and recorded over 60 minutes of original music.

Then, when he began playing the recordings for friends and colleagues, Webster said, the reaction was almost always the same. “They’d say to me, ‘This sounds more like a show than a collection of disconnected rock songs.’”

Webster’s plan is to create a performance piece that is equal parts prayer, celebration, supplication, defiance, longing, questioning, and praise. He is working with actors, singers, musicians, dancers, and visual artists to incorporate elements of rock music, theater, film, and dance into the concert setting. The show, he says, is meant to be malleable, adaptable, evolving, and ongoing.

After the Brooklyn debut, Webster hopes the piece will go on the road, performed by other groups of artists in many different settings throughout the world. In other words, the work could become evangelism that reaches out both to the rock community and beyond. “It’s a rock show, but you could also do it in your living room or around a campfire with some friends and couple of acoustic guitars.”

To learn more about Webster and his music, visit his website or Facebook page.