A Gospel Legend and a Groundbreaking Worship Degree

| Academics

Babbie Mason is among the first to earn Trevecca’s new degree in African American worship studies.

Even with an extensive list of career accomplishments, Babbie Mason—a two-time Dove Award winner, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter, author and TV talk show host—felt she had more to learn. In Trevecca’s new African American worship studies master’s degree, she found the extended education she was looking for—and a lot more. 

This May, Mason was part of the program’s inaugural graduating class. The first of its kind in the nation, the program focuses on key elements including studying Scripture; engaging with the writings of African-American theologians and authors; and the day-to-day practice of worship. The goal is to shape individuals who are prepared to create and lead thriving ministries and churches. 

The curriculum, which examines the history and culture of African American worship, spoke to Mason on a personal level.

“Being in the program has been extremely cathartic because I grew up in the church; my parents are first-generation Northerners coming from the South,” Mason said. “It has been remarkable to learn the history. It’s like seeing my family’s story written in the pages of a textbook.”

Beyond her choice to enter the master’s program, she is a member of the advisory council for the degree program and a guest speaker for Trevecca’s Center for African American Worship Studies.

Mason’s Journey 

“How did I get into gospel music? I think gospel music got into me,” said Mason. The daughter of a Baptist pastor, she got her start in music at Lily Missionary Baptist Church in Jackson, Michigan, where she was born. She became the church pianist at age nine.

Eventually, Mason married and relocated to Georgia, where she worked as a teacher. One day she went with her husband, Charles, to visit a large church in hopes of getting an opportunity to perform. She fervently believed that God would open doors for her to use her gifts. She found herself in the office of one of the pastors, who after hearing her play, invited her to perform. Soon that opportunity opened the door to many others.

Since those early days, she has had enormous success, earning two awards from the prestigious American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and releasing 10 number-one radio singles, including “Each One, Reach One” and “A World of Difference.” Her songs have made it into hymnals, a television show and Denzel Washington’s blockbuster film, “Deja Vu.”

Her ability to bring together people from different backgrounds has been a staple of Mason’s time in music ministry.

“I play in a lot of white Southern Baptist churches and I try to bridge that gap between my life and my music and their life and their music,” she said. “I try to bring the body of Christ together as far as denominations, races and cultures.”

Her accomplishments go far beyond her musical talent. She is the author of nine books. She also founded BabbieMasonRadio.com, an online radio station where she gives artists a platform to share their creative and faith-centered endeavors. Through it all, she’s kept her eyes on what is most important. 

“The best thing about Babbie is that she loves Jesus,” said Vernon Whaley, associate vice president of program development for the School of Music and Worship Arts. “And if you stick around long enough, she’ll teach you how to as well.” 

Education Beyond the Classroom 

The African American worship studies program has helped shape Mason’s love for Jesus in new and profound ways. 

“It was an adventure being in front of my computer on a daily basis with my nose in my Bible, writing, creating and digging deep into God’s word,” said Mason. “One of the most significant things is the application of the program. I began to understand God’s will for my life more and my seasons of worship have been sweeter and richer.”  

“I began to understand God’s will for my life more and my seasons of worship have been sweeter and richer.”  

Stephen Newby, director of Trevecca’s Center for African American Worship Studies, believes those who embrace the degree program will be changed at a level far beyond that of academic knowledge and that their lives and experience will embody the rich tradition of men and women who pursued worship and faith above all else.

“We’re getting people to connect the dots because if we can’t live holistically, we’ll never be able to follow the gospel mandate in Matthew 6, ‘Let your light so shine before others so that they can see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven,’” Newby said. “At the end of the day, you’ll come out of this degree program wanting to glorify the Father.”