“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” —Jeremiah 29:11
In the coming weeks, several Minnesota UCC congregations are hosting 29:11, an amazing group of performers from South Africa who share their music and story of reconciliation. Upcoming performances are at Congregational Church of Excelsior on March 12; Lyndale UCC on April 9; Peace UCC in Duluth (with St. Mark’s AME) on May 7; and Plymouth Congregational on May 14. Robbinsdale Parkway UCC hosted the group in February.
29:11 International Exchange is a music ministry based in South Africa and the U.S. whose mission is to facilitate hope and reconciliation through musical performance and collaboration, artist development, and cross-cultural relationships. In their words, “By recognizing that each of us is worthy of understanding and love, we can bridge the ideological, racial, and socio-economic gaps that divide us, and live together as citizens of the world.”
The group produces, performs and records music across a wide range of genres. Repertoire features original works, including a cantata depicting the history of traditional African songs, Gospel favorites, remixed rhymes, and pop covers.
Rev. Claire M. Klein got involved with the group in 2018 when she was part of the South African tour with the Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Chorale. 29:11 came to Minnesota to perform, then the Orchestra and Chorale traveled with the group to perform in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Soweto.
The co-founders of 29:11, Brendon and Gaylene Adams, reached out to Klein in 2020 to express interest in returning. Klein, who works as a music therapist with Grace Hospice, readily volunteered to help. She engaged her UCC colleagues and found many eager to host the group. Former Associate Conference Minister Rick Wagner and Steve Hughes, a member at Excelsior UCC, volunteered to help as well.
Klein says she hopes this tour will promote a “shared envisioning of peace and reconciliation, for people to be moved to love more widely and deeply by getting to know the amazing musicians and artists of 29:11.”
Brendon Adams, who is originally from Capetown, says, “Reconciliation is messy. It’s hard work, but we can approach it with a spirit of forgiveness and love. We can invite others to sing with us, pray with us, serve in the streets with us, heal with us.”
The group often quotes Nelson Mandela: “Reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people.”