Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ReWind Wednesdays: Jerry Bennett: Singing and Serving at The Bridge, Nashville

Is Southern Gospel all about the stage, lights, big hair and entertaining singers? Originally from the State of Pennsylvania, singer-songwriter Jerry Bennett has discovered another dimension to his music that has changed his life. Always willing to go wherever he is led, since July of 2005, Jerry has found that path leading to Jefferson Street Bridge and the homeless of Nashville, Tennessee. A life full of twists and turns, this latest venture is just another step along the way.

Jerry grew up in the church and learned to play the piano and bass guitar. He formed a quartet in 1979, which went on to win talent contests and enabled him to share the stage with groups such as the Payne Family and the Greenes. Beginning a solo career in 1994, he didn’t start to travel extensively until 2000, becoming full-time in 2004. His time in Southern Gospel has been highlighted by stints with Donnie Seabolt (Blue Ridge Quartet), Laverne Tripp, and the Freemans. Jerry’s songwriting credits include “My God Forgets” which he co-wrote with April Nye. This song was released by the Kingsmen in 1995, did well on the charts and garnered many award nominations.

Currently residing near Nashville, Jerry’s full-time solo career has taken him across the United States, where he presents his energetic, country-style original tunes as well as Southern Gospel standards and classic hymns. He cites the Hinsons, Hemphills, Goodmans and Rambos as his musical influences, and is excited now to be working with the Hemphills in a project that is reaching people in a practical way. Jerry talked to Sgmradio recently about this new venture:

“I met Joel and LaBreeska this past summer of 2005 in Pennsylvania. They had just lost their singer and were traveling as the duo. They have become like a family to me. These people are the “real thing”; I guess just like Coca Cola, ha ha. I like being with people who are genuine, and I can honestly say Joel and LaBreeska are genuine. As we were having fellowship and eating after the program, Joel invited me to come downtown Nashville under the Jefferson Street Bridge to minister with them to the homeless. My heart has always been to do ministry, and I was all for it. This was right down my alley. I believe that true ministry is getting the opportunity to give of yourself and knowing that nothing is going to be returned.”

This has developed into a weekly ministry for Jerry that sees this group of people distributing food, clothing, and bibles as well as the Word through music and preaching. They arrive on a Tuesday night, set up equipment and tables, and share what they have with whoever will listen. Often they have special guests who drop in, such as Laverne and Edith Tripp, Eric Hinson, Donny and Reba Rambo McGuire and Stella Parton. Sometimes those in their audience will come up and participate as well.

“Candy (Hemphill-Christmas) has rented a warehouse where we are receiving clothes, coats, blankets and other articles that the homeless need. Candy also has a box truck that goes to the Jefferson Street Bridge each Tuesday night. We don’t miss a week. We set up chairs, crank up generators to run sound and lights, and tables to set up for serving food and then later for giving out clothes… Every service people are coming to the altar for prayer. Yes we still see them struggle with alcohol and drug addictions, but we don’t give up, some are getting genuine deliverance.”

Jerry continues, “I had to laugh one night when Candy performed, a homeless guy came up to Candy and said, ‘You are good enough to cut a record’. These people for the most part have no idea of the great talent that has been blessing thousands across this country are coming just to bless them each week under the bridge, and that is so awesome.”

Other practical help is offered from time to time, as different churches get involved and members offer jobs and housing. Not everyone responds to these offers, but they still keep pressing on. “Although it breaks my heart to not see everyone press through his or her situation I was reminded of the 10 lepers in the bible. Jesus healed them all, but only one came to return thanks. God has called me to minister. That night God spoke to me saying if I took the time for the one, that I would also find myself in situations with thousands as Jesus ministered. I truly believe Jesus set the precepts of what it is to be an Ambassador of the Gospel.”

Jerry has been involved in prison ministry as well for quite awhile, arranging his schedule to accommodate this and asking promoters to connect him to community facilities in the places he is booked for concerts. Jerry explains what compels him: “To let these guys know there is hope and to understand God is their source of strength and I’m there because I love them as well as letting them know God loves them.”

“God is teaching me to continue to see the needs of other people, administer to their hurts. Get Jerry Bennett out of the way. I still struggle with the flesh, but I face that demon each day I wake up and say Jerry it’s not about you. God has taught me to be appreciative of the little things we take for granted. My health I learned from last year was something I took for granted. Now when I see people ill, it’s compassion that drives me. See compassion is not an emotion, but compassion is an action. You can feel sorry for someone, and that is not compassion, but when you do something about their situation and get involved, to me that is compassion.”

The future looks busy for this singer. Jerry is looking forward to the New Year, and new challenges. “I pray for the Lord to help me find favor with men/pastors, to walk through every door that God opens for me. A small door can open a bigger door. I pray for God to continue to anoint my mind with new ideas to write songs, with a profound message to move people on a huge scale, not for Jerry Bennett but for God.”

Be sure to visit Jerry’s website at

By Lorraine Walker
First published January 2006 - used by permission

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