By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Mary McDonald has been chosen as the first recipient of the inaugural Paul B. Clark Church Music Ministry Award.
The Paul B. Clark Church Music Ministry Award is presented by the Tennessee Baptist Church Music Conference to recognize individuals who exemplify outstanding, courageous leadership through their commitment, influence and contributions to the ministry through music in the local church, said Scott Shepherd, worship and music specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Clark served as the worship and music specialist for the TBMB from 2000-2015 prior to a massive stroke shortly after the 2015 Summit. Clark died Dec. 24, 2018.
“The purpose of this award is two-fold,” Shepherd said. “First, we want to keep alive the legacy of Dr. Paul Clark in the hearts and minds of Tennessee Baptists. Second, we want to provide motivation and inspiration for Tennessee Baptist worship musicians.”
Shepherd listed the criteria for the award. Nominees must:
- Be active within a local church affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
- Exemplify good moral character and excellence within the field of church music.
- Exhibit the qualities of a servant-leader.
- Clearly demonstrate evidence of his or her impact/influence in the area of church music and worship.
The award was created to “honor those who display the qualities of leadership and character that Paul exuded and serve as a lasting tribute in his memory.” Shepherd said.
McDonald, a lifelong resident of Knoxville until her recent move to Dandridge, has served as the accompanist for the Tennessee Men’s Chorale for 35 years.
She was the first woman ever selected as president of the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference.
McDonald is also an award-winning composer but her desire is simple — “to give God glory for the songs He has allowed me to compose. He alone, is the true Creator behind my pen.”
Shepherd observed that “one could easily argue that no two worship musicians have impacted Tennessee Baptists more over the past 35 years than Paul Clark and Mary McDonald. This award is a wonderful way for us to honor them both.”
He added that it is particularly fitting for McDonald to receive the award now.
After serving as an accompanist for the TN Men’s Chorale for 35 years, she will be retiring in April, following a TMC concert at First Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky.
“My own ministry and countless others across Tennessee — would not be what it is today apart from the godly influence of Paul Clark and Mary McDonald. I am so pleased for Mary to receive the inaugural Paul B. Clark Church Music Ministry Award.”
Joe Fitzpatrick, worship and music pastor for First Baptist Church, Nashville, and president of the Tennessee Baptist Church Music Conference, agreed.
“Mary McDonald is one of the most naturally, God-gifted and anointed church musicians I know,” he said. “Her vibrant and vivacious spirit exudes her passionate love for the Lord and His people. … Mary has served Tennessee Baptists with devotion and distinction. I am thrilled she is the inaugural recipient of the Paul B. Clark Church Music Ministry Award.”
McDonald said she is humbled to be the recipient of the inaugural Paul B. Clark Church Music Ministry Award. “Having known Paul for more than 30 years, I respected his musicianship and heart for ministry which, along with his dry sense of humor, fostered our long relationship in church music. It is an honor to be associated with a man whom I greatly admired as an encourager, motivator, and inspirational leader,” she said.