Cliburn was a man of devotion to the Lord

Posted Saturday, Mar. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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kennedy Van Cliburn will be remembered today as a champion of music, of his nation and of prayer.

As a 37-year member of a Baptist church that itself has shifted from stern, frontier-era faith to a more studied spirituality, he upheld a family legacy of service and devotion to his Creator.

"Van was very aware that his Creator gave him this gift of music, and he was to use it for good around the world," said Albert L. Travis, who will play Broadway Baptist Church's big-as-Texas Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn Organ.

In a 2006 interview, Cliburn told Star-Telegram religion columnist Jim Jones, "Great music is the breath of God."

Baptized at 8 in Shreveport, he grew up in a loyal Southern Baptist family as the great-grandson of an early Texas pastor and Baylor University theology professor.

Broadway, formerly Southern Baptist, is now part of the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Throughout his career, Cliburn invited pastors and friends to pray before and after concerts and trips.

In the 2006 interview, he said, "I don't know how people live without prayer."

Travis said he and Broadway's former music minister Tom Stoker often prayed with Cliburn.

"I think it was instilled in him from home," Travis said.

"His mother and father taught him to go to church. They taught him to worship God almighty."

They also taught him stewardship.

Former Broadway Pastor Steve Shoemaker, just retired from a North Carolina church, remembered one stunning day when Cliburn, just back from a tour, walked into church to drop off a personal check.

"He said he was taught that when he was young," Shoemaker said by phone.

He described Cliburn's faith as a combination of those simple childhood lessons and the spirituality of his music.

"I think he had a deep regard for how his parents raised him, and also a great devotion to the sacredness of music," Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker remembered a banquet where Cliburn was speaking and started reciting an entire hymn from memory.

The hymn was Open My Eyes, That I May See.

It ends:

Silently now I wait for thee,

Ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my heart, illumine me,

Spirit divine.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @budkennedy

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