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Unity Church of Rockdale welcomes new pastors, plans concert events

Unity Church of Rockdale Music Choral Director Denise D'Angelo Jones will perform a concert at the church on Jan. 6.

Unity Church of Rockdale Music Choral Director Denise D'Angelo Jones will perform a concert at the church on Jan. 6.

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The husband and wife team of Warren and Francie Potter will co-pastor Unity Church of Rockdale

Unity Church of Rockdale begins 2012 with a flurry of news and activities starting with the welcome of its new pastors this Sunday, a unique spiritual service and the kick off of its First Friday Concert Series featuring Grammy and other award-winning singers and songwriters.

The husband and wife pastor team of the Rev. Francie and the Rev. Warren Potter will begin their ministry at Unity on Jan. 1, and start work on their plan of developing a strong emphasis on family at the Conyers church, which is located at 933 Commercial St. in Olde Town Conyers.

Their first Sunday at Unity coincides with the church's traditional Burning Bowl/White Stone Service at 11 a.m. The Burning Bowl/White Stone service is a "spiritual experience that allows one to release anything from their past that does not serve their highest good," according to Rev. Francie Potter. "After doing this, they claim a new focus for the new year. (Everyone is invited to join us) for this powerful spiritual experience."

Unity's new pastors offer a co-minister approach and bring more than 35 years combined experience in the ministry. Both are 2010 graduates of the Ministerial and Religious Studies program at Unity Institute at Unity Village in Missouri. The have served in a number of areas of leadership, including their home church, Unity of Wichita in Kansas and at Unity Village Chapel in Missouri. They have interned at Unity Temple on the Plaza, Unity of Independence and Unity Church of Overland Park -- all in the Kansas City metro area.

The Potters have been guest speakers at Unity churches throughout the Midwest. They are the parents of five children, with two teenagers still at home.

Unity Church of Rockdale was founded in 1976 by a husband and wife team, the Revs. Curtis and Gladys Wilson.

"This will be the first time since then that we have had a husband and wife team here and we're excited," church office administrator Robert Porter said.

At the end of the Potters first week as pastors of Unity Church of Rockdale, the church will kick off its First Friday Concert Series, which will continue throughout 2012 on the first Friday of the month. Concerts begin at 8 p.m. at the church in Olde Town. The proceeds from ticket sales will be used to benefit charity and Unity Church of Rockdale's music department.

The first concert will be Jan. 6, and feature Unity's choral director, Denise D'Angelo Jones. An award-winning singer/songwriter, Jones will bring humor to the evening with her "Perimenopausal Rap" about women of a certain age and "Has Anybody Seen?" which is a "ditty" about a woman who loses her keys, cellphone and just about everything else.

Jones will also perform several inspirational numbers, such as "There's Hope in Everything," a song about holding onto faith during times of crisis.

"I write songs that are very introspective and will touch people on a heart level and I intertwine humor with that," Jones said.

In 1999, Jones won an award from the Songwriters Guild of America for her song "For You (A Mother's Song)," a song she wrote as a gift for a friend on Mother's Day, which caused her to realized she too wanted to become a mother. Two years later she had her first child.

"I didn't know until I wrote that song that I wanted to be a mother," Jones said. "It was such an emotional song for me to write. As I wrote it, it was very healing for me to realize I wanted to embrace motherhood. For that song to get an award was even more of a shock."

Jones has served as Unity Church of Rockdale's music director for a year and a half, but has a lifetime of musical experience. She sang her first solo at the age of 5 in the Lutheran Church and three years later was traveling around with her family, The Jones Family Singers performing at regional farmers markets and rural celebrations throughout Illinois.

She said her family inspired her from a young age, including her grandfather who enjoyed writing funny lyrics to songs and her father, who loved to write poetry. Her mother also inspired her to be a writer, having written three books on genealogy.

"Writing and singing are both very much in my family," she said, adding that rather than sitting around watching television, her family would often sit together with their musical instruments and sing.

She plays the guitar and learned from her uncle how to play the fiddle. For years, she also played the classical violin. When she married into the D'Angelo family, she said she put her maiden name of Jones at the end of her name in order to honor her family.

A portion of the proceeds from the January concert will help fund production of Jones' new musical projects. Proceeds from sales of several new songs to be featured on the CDs will benefit charities that aid women in Africa and tsunami victims in Japan, Jones said.

Greg Tamblyn will headline the Feb. 3, concert. He has a list of national awards, including multiple Best Comedy Song awards from the Posi Music Awards, the Grammy's of positive music, Jones said.

He has also won Just Plain Folks Music awards and the Music City Song Festival, where songs highlighting his wit were featured, including "The Top Ten Whiny Victim Love Songs" and "Self-Employment Made Harder by a Difficult Boss."

The March 2 show will feature the David D'Angelo Jazz Quartet. D'Angelo, the husband of Denise D'Angelo Jones, is a Grammy nominee who has shared the stage with such stars as Reba McIntyre, James Brown and Sammy Davis Jr., as well as performed in orchestras for more than 60 Broadway shows.

Other First Friday Concert Series performers will be announced at a later date, Jones said.

"These are people you can't see every day in Conyers," she added. "We're bringing people from all over the country."

Unity Church of Rockdale's sanctuary has limited seating for 50 people, so those interested in attending the concert are encouraged to arrive when the doors open at 7:30 p.m. and to purchase tickets in advance.

Tickets are $15 per person; $25 for couples and $5 for children under the age of 18. Childcare will not be provided. Donations of canned goods and winter coats will be accepted at the church.

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville. If you have a story idea, email Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.