Healing 2020

The Spirituals Project National Conference

Has Been Postponed

After much deliberation and discussion, we share the news of the postponement of the Spirituals Project National Conference: Healing 2020.  The conference, slated for May 14-16, 2020 on the University of Denver campus, will be rescheduled in the coming months as we learn more about the impact of COVID-19. 

The Coronavirus health crisis has forced all of us to confront new and unexpected challenges in both our professional and personal lives. Please know that we are committed to keeping our community and the broader public safe. 

Though we are facing a tough time filled with uncertainty and unexpected challenges, we know that in time our conference will bring together individuals who will embrace this collection of music as a source of healing. We know that the Spirituals had the ability to express hope during the most difficult times.


Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr.

Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr.

Dr. Eileen Guenther

Dr. Eileen Guenther

Rev. Dr. James Peters

Rev. Dr. James Peters

Honorary Co-Chairs

Albus Brooks

Former Denver City Council President Albus Brooks

Rt. Rev. Kimberly Lucas

Rt. Rev. Kimberly Lucas


See Bios Below

  • Conference Schedule

    Conference Schedule

    The conference will be held on the University of Denver campus.

    Thursday, May 14, 2020 (Margery Reed Building)

    5:00 p.m. – Registration
    6:00 p.m. – Welcome Reception
    7:30 p.m. – Keynote address, Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr.

    Friday, May 15, 2020

    8:00 a.m. – Refreshments
    9:00 a.m. – Plenary I: Dr. Eileen Guenther
    10:30 a.m. – Morning Workshops
    12:00 p.m. – Lunch provided
    1:30 - 4:00 p.m. – Afternoon Workshops
    Dinner on your own
    7:30 p.m. – Evening Concert with Erica Pappillion-Posey – Hamilton Recital Hall, Newman Center for the Performing Arts

    Saturday, May 16, 2020

    8:00 a.m. – Refreshments
    9:00 a.m. – Plenary II: Rev. Dr. James Peters
    10:30 a.m. – Morning Workshops
    12:00 p.m. – Lunch on your own
    Afternoon optional activities / free time
    7:30 p.m. – Gala Concert – featuring The Spirituals Project Choir – Gates Concert Hall, Newman Center for the Performing Arts - Free ticket required, $5 Reserved seating, complimentary parking. (Ticket included in conference registration)

    *Workshops and presenters will be finalized in February.

  • Speakers & Honorary Co-Chairs Bios

    Keynote Speaker

    Rev. Dr. Forbes

    The Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes, Jr. is The Harry Emerson Fosdick Distinguished Professor at Union Theological Seminary, Senior Minister Emeritus of The Riverside Church, President of the Healing of the Nations Foundation and Chairman of the Drum Major Institute in New York City. An ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches, Dr. Forbes was the first African-American to serve as minister of Riverside Church, an interdenominational, interracial and international 2,400-member church built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1927.

    A pastor, educator, administrator, community activist, and interfaith leader, Dr. Forbes was named one of the 12 “most effective preachers” in the English-speaking world by Newsweek and was twice designated as one of America’s greatest Black preachers by Ebony magazine. Dr. Forbes earned a D.Min. from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School; an M. Div. from Union Theological Seminary; and a BS (chemistry) from Howard University. He also earned his clinical pastoral education certificate from the Medical College of Virginia. He holds 14 honorary doctorates from numerous institutions, including Princeton, DePauw, Colgate, Fairleigh Dickenson, Lehigh and the University of Richmond. His awards include the Union Theology Seminary’s Unitas Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Teacher’s College of Columbia University’s Distinguished Service Medal and Howard University’s Distinguished Service Award in Ministry.

    Two of Dr. Forbes’ songs have been published in the Silver Burdett Songbooks for schools: “We Shall Overcome” and “Our Families Together.” Dr. Forbes has performed the narration for several large musical productions, including Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” with the Riverside choir. Born in 1935 in Burgaw, North Carolina, Dr. Forbes is married to Bettye Franks Forbes, formerly of San Antonio, TX. They are the proud parents of one son, James A. Forbes, III.


    Eileen Guenther

    Dr. Eileen Guenther is Lecturer in Organ at The George Washington University and Professor of Church Music at Wesley Theological Seminary, where she teaches music and worship courses and serves as Director of Chapel Music. Her role as teacher extends to churches and musical and denominational organizations, for whom she leads workshops on music and social justice, global music, Spirituals, and clergy-music relations.

    Her book, Rivals or a Team: Clergy-Musician Relationships in the 21st Century (MorningStar Music Publishers, 2012) has been widely acclaimed and has received a great deal of media attention. Interviews with Eileen on this book have been published in a variety of venues, from blogs and denominational newsletters to The Huffington Post and The Christian Century. Her second book, In Their Own Words: Slave Life and Power of Spirituals (MorningStar Music Publishers, 2016), has also been extremely well received and is in its fourth printing. The 70 presentations she has made on In Their Own Words have taken her from Atlanta to Ashland, Oregon.

    Dr. Guenther served for six years as National President of the American Guild of Organists, the third woman to lead this organization since its founding in 1896. As an organ recitalist Dr. Guenther has performed over 250 recitals in the US as well as Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. She is interviewed on the PBS documentary on Christmas Carols with Amy Grant, and in the EMMY-Award winning film Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story, broadcast nationally beginning in February 2019. Her performances are heard throughout the soundtrack.

    Dr. James Peters

    The Rev. Dr. James Peters has touched countless lives in a ministry that combines faith with work for social justice. The courage and work of Dr. Peters helped make fairness and equal rights part of shared values in Denver where he has lived for decades.

    A native of Connecticut, Rev. Peters was a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1950s and 1960s and an associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. In Denver, Rev. Peters served as pastor of New Hope Baptist church for 28 years before retirement in 2007. He also served for many years as a member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

    Honorary Co-Chairs

    Albus Brooks

    At the core of Albus Brooks’ identity is community development and servant leadership. Albus moved to Colorado in 1997 to study and play football for the University of Colorado. Sports Illustrated named him one of the "Top 10 Hardest Hitters," and the NFL took interest in him before injuries ultimately ended his football career.
    Albus Brooks pursued his calling for community development by working with young people in Denver’s poor communities. He served as the Director of the Issachar Center for Urban Leadership, an organization that invests in Denver’s emerging leaders. In 2010 Albus worked to elect then-Mayor John Hickenlooper as Governor of Colorado, acting as the statewide Outreach and Political Director.
    This exposure to political leadership led him to seek public office, and in 2011 Albus defeated 38 opponents to become the youngest African American ever elected to Denver City Council. Serving two terms on Denver City Council, including two terms as Council President, Albus accomplished an ambitious range of progressive legislative victories with the goal of building a truly inclusive city.  
    To address the affordability crisis, he co-created Denver’s first — and Colorado’s largest — affordable housing fund. To make Denver a more equitable place to grow up he funded and expanded the Denver Preschool Program, providing universal access to preschool for all 4-year-olds. He also decriminalized marijuana possession for those 18–21 years old, preventing thousands of young people from entering the criminal justice system.  
    Albus Brooks received his M.B.A. from the University of Denver. He is now the Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for Milender White, a Development and Construction firm operating in Southern California and Colorado.
    Albus sits on multiple boards and commissions and has been a part of the following national and international fellowship programs: The Marshall Memorial Fellowship, the NewDEAL Leaders, and the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship.
    Although a rising global leader, it is in the heart of Denver where Albus feels most at home. He lives in the Cole neighborhood with his wife Debi and their three young children, Makai, Kenya and Kaya.  


    Rt. Rev. Kimberly Lucas

    The Rt. Rev. Kimberly (Kym) Lucas was ordained and consecrated as the eleventh bishop of The Episcopal Church in Colorado on May 18 at Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver. Lucas became the first woman bishop as well as the first African American bishop in the diocese’s 132-year history.

    Lucas was chosen as the eleventh bishop of The Episcopal Church in Colorado during its 131st Annual Convention on Saturday, October 27, 2018. Lucas has served as Rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. since January 2012. Previously, she was the Rector of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Raleigh, NC, from 2005 to 2011.

    Bishop Lucas grew up in Spring Lake, North Carolina and received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Wake Forest University. She received her Master of Divinity, New Testament, at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Bishop Lucas and her husband, Mark Retherford, have four children.

  • Accommodations & Information


    Request the Spirituals Project National Conference group rate.
    Hotel links below will take you directly to the conference group rate.

    Courtyard Marriott Denver - Cherry Creek
    1475 S. Colorado Blvd.
    Denver, CO 80222
    Phone for booking: 888-823-1753

    Courtyard Marriott Online Reservations


    Hilton Garden Inn Denver - Cherry Creek
    600 S. Colorado Blvd.
    Denver, CO 80246
    Phone for booking: 877-782-9444

    Hilton Garden Inn Online Reservations


    M. Roger Holland, II
    Teaching Assistant Professor – Music and Religion
    Director, The Spirituals Project
    Department of Musicology, Ethnomusicology and Theory
    Lamont School of Music


    Details pending

    Sponsorship Opportunities

    For more information on how you can support the conference, please contact The Spirituals Project Director, M. Roger Holland, II, at spirituals@du.edu

  • Registration & Conference Payment

    Registration is Online through the Newman Center Box Office

    Pay Registration Fee Online

    Once you have paid for your registration, a link to the conference registration form will be emailed to you.

    Early Bird Registration – $150 thru April 3, 2020
    Regular Registration – $175 April 4–May 8, 2020
    On-site Registration – $200
    Student Registration – $75
    DU Faculty & Spirituals Project Choir ask Roger Holland for promo code.