Week of Compassion Takes Over the Country Music Hall of Fame

by Richmond Williams

As music filled the atrium of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Week of Compassion honored Disciples and partners at a “Compassion Hall of Fame” event on the evening of July 10 as part of the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

“In a town like Nashville, it just made sense to utilize the resources here,” said Amy Gopp, Week of Compassion’s executive director since 2008. “With musicians among us and a place like [the Hall of Fame] down the street from the Assembly, we knew that people would leave feeling like they were part of Week of Compassion.”

Gopp said that while many Disciples are aware of the fund’s disaster response and humanitarian aid, Week of Compassion also works for long-term sustainable development around the world. In an average year, the fund disburses $3-4 million in aid from special offerings.

In a sermon earlier Sunday at a local congregation, she pointed out the timing of this weekend’s independence for the people of South Sudan, and the tireless efforts and partnerships of Disciples over a period of many years.

Sunday’s event was designed to thank Disciples for their long heritage of giving, and to highlight other key partners with whom Week of Compassion works to accomplish its mission. While the museum setting allowed attendees to see artifacts from country music -- such as the telegram used to announce Hank Williams Jr.’s birth – they were also able to view educational displays on the Foods Resource Bank, Division of Overseas Ministries, Act Alliance, Disciples Volunteering, Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Church World Service and IMA World Health.

At the reception and earlier at the Sing It! concert in Plenary Hall, Gopp reminded each attendee that they, as individuals, were a vital part of the “Hall of Fame.” She noted that the dollars that members and churches give to Week of Compassion translate directly into wells, irrigation systems, nutritious food, hospitals, schools and training.

During the concert, the audience was able to see a scrolling list of the hundreds of projects that the fund has been involved with since the 2009 General Assembly.

Since that Assembly, Week of Compassion has been strained by a notable increase in the frequency and severity of large-scale natural disasters, from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, to the 2011 tsunami in Japan, and domestic disasters such as last year’s flood in Nashville and tornadoes throughout the country. Gopp noted that environmental trends indicate that natural catastrophes will continue to occur in the near future, requiring an unprecedented level of vigilant response.

Many of the same musicians from the evening’s concert – which also benefitted Week of Compassion – entertained the reception as the night progressed. Andra Moran, Craig Wiseman and Gabe Dixon – all Disciples artists with strong ties to Nashville and musical success “beyond the church” – lent their talents at guitar, piano and singing at the festivities.

While the event had an educational component, it was also intended as a way to “give back” to the individual members and clergy who contribute to Week of Compassion.

“We partner with the people in the pews,” said Brandon Gilvin, the fund’s associate director. “They are the heart and soul of Week of Compassion.”

Richmond Williams lives in Nashville, Tennessee, is a member of Woodmont Christian Church, and works in advertising/marketing. He volunteers regularly with Mobile Loaves & Fishes and Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health. He served as part of a volunteer press team that covered events at the 2011 General Assembly.