Popular Christian hymn writer Keith Getty today becomes the first contemporary church musician to receive an OBE.
The award in the Queen's Birthday Honours marks Getty's contribution to music and hymn writing through his re- popularising of hymns.
It is the first such an award has been given to an individual who is actively involved in the world of contemporary church music.
Getty's hymns, often written in collaboration with Stuart Townend, include the the popular In Christ Alone – the number one most-frequently-sung in UK churches for a record-setting nine consecutive years.
Getty said, 'When I first received the call, I was pretty surprised. It is an honour for us as a family and also for the great hymn-writing heritage we have here in the U.K. of which we are a tiny part. I am very grateful to her Majesty the Queen for this honour.'
An estimated 40-50 million people are singing Getty hymns in church services each year, while publisher Integrity Music,believes a wider assessment of the Getty/Townend catalogue is likely closer 100 million considering its popularity throughout Asia and their almost unique ability to also be sung in the more traditional and classical contexts of church music.
Timothy Keller, Pastor Emeritus at Redeemer Presbyterian Churches of New York City said, 'Keith and Kristyn Getty are pioneers in the movement to produce a true yet new hymnody for the church that is theologically substantial, highly aware of history, continuous with church music of the past, contemporary yet meant to be enduring, and not just of the moment. They stand in the gap between the older churches of Europe and the new, growing, global Christianity. Though they are still young adults, we already owe them a great deal.'
The Gettys have performed in Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and London's Royal Albert Hall. With performances for world leaders such as former US President George W. Bush and former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, some 200,000 people have also seen their annual Irish Christmas concert which was also aired on America's Public Television to more than 45 million homes.
Getty said, 'I'm so grateful to my wife Kristyn, and also profoundly thankful for Stuart Townend, whose hymn writing partnership and brilliance gave us both this opportunity. Kristyn and I feel utterly privileged to be able to serve the church in such a way and will continue to write and lead people in singing as we have breath to.'
Later this year, Keith and Kristyn's first book, Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, will be published internationally by B&H (Lifeway). The book release signals the commencement of the larger Sing! project, launching with a private event in September for Houses of Parliament and immediately followed by a conference in Nashville, where 4,000 will attend from around the world, and a 5,000-person hymn sing at the world-famous Grand Ole Opry House.
Also honoured with an MBE is Goldthorpe Salvation Army minister Territorial Envoy Alison Sykes for service to families in Dearne, South Yorkshire.
Living in the town for the past 22 years, Alison, 44, raised her two children as she volunteered and worked in a number of volunteer and paid posts with families – from parent-and-toddler groups to schools' and youth work.
She is currently the leader of Goldthorpe Salvation Army, where she supports families experiencing challenging circumstances.
She said: 'I was surprised to read the letter from the Cabinet Office telling me I'd received this honour – I couldn't believe it. I'm thrilled to be honoured in this way, although, the real privilege for me comes every day when I'm invited by families into their lives to stand with them as they face tough moments and to provide love, support and guidance as they start taking steps to move forwards.'
Alison started volunteering for The Salvation Army 17 years ago, having attended the parent-and-toddler group and been encouraged by the former ministers to become more involved.
She said: 'I grew in confidence through the trust they placed in me, which led to me taking on more responsibility and eventually becoming the minister in charge here three years ago. We all have God-given value and potential and by caring and loving people we can see them grow and flourish.'
Among reasons that people seek support from the Salvation Army are issues with housing, addiction, learning difficulties, unemployment, financial, relationship or other crises.
Alison said: 'Lives are changed at The Salvation Army every day over a cup of tea as people open up and invite us into their lives. All we do is built on a love for and a commitment to these families, providing time and space for people and being willing to help where we can. I'm proud of how far so many have come – it's an encouragement and a healthy reminder that challenging circumstances can be turned around and by loving people it can and will happen and that's when we see lives transformed.'