SPRING HILL — Sandi Patty is the most decorated female vocalist in contemporary Christian music history.
Three decades into her career, she has 39 Dove awards, five Grammy awards, four Billboard Music awards and several platinum and gold albums. In 2004, she was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Much to the delight of Steve McManaway, who heads both the worship and the special events committees for First United Methodist Church of Spring Hill, Patty will be performing a concert there Sunday night.
"I have never seen her in person and am really excited for this opportunity," McManaway said.
He said handling the ticket distribution for the event has given him and his wife, Gail, occasion to hear many positive comments.
"Just a couple of examples are, 'You can't compare what you see and hear on CDs and TV to seeing her in person' … 'a real entertainer, not just a great voice' … 'I can't believe she's coming to Spring Hill — things like that just don't happen here.' So you can see why this makes our efforts so rewarding."
While she has performed in much grander venues — the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Billy Graham crusades here and abroad, and three presidential inaugural galas — and with such notable groups as the Cincinnati Pops, the National Symphony and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Patty said she is anxious to come to Spring Hill.
"I love more intimate settings," she said. "It feels like we are having coffee in the living room together — just sharing our lives. I love that."
Patty, 52, said she will share her testimony mostly through song at the concert.
"I find that songs help me tell my story of God's faithfulness in my life," she said.
God's grace, she said, is an important theme at her concerts.
"The main thing that I hope people take away from a concert, or an interview or listening to a recording, is that God's grace is for all of us," she said.
Patty has also written about stages of her life in four books. One of them, Broken on the Back Row, relates the struggles she went through in both her personal and professional life while dealing with the repercussions of an affair that led to the dissolution of her marriage 15 years ago.
"God doesn't waste anything," Patty said about that time in her life. "If we will let him, he uses everything — even our dumb, stupid mistakes — to bring honor to him."
In her newest album, Songs for the Journey, Patty sings her story using songs like Were It Not for Grace and Through It All.
"I continue to learn that God is the God of second, third, fourth chances," she said. "He never gives up on us."
Reared by a music pastor father and a piano-playing mother, music and church were cornerstones in Patty's early life. But being brought up in a Christian home is not a guarantee of a close walk with God, she said.
"There is a big difference in a profession in Christian music work and a real personal relationship with the God of the universe," Patty said. "Just because I talk and sing about Jesus doesn't mean that is a substitute for a relationship with him. I have to invest in that in quiet time (with him) every day."
Today, Patty is married to Don Peslis, with whom she sometimes sings.
The couple have a blended brood of eight children, ages 12 to 24, and Patty is getting anxious to have grandchildren in her life.
Most people, she said, don't know that she is an ardent football enthusiast.
"I am a huge NFL fan," Patty said. "One of my dreams is to go to the NFL Pro Bowl week and just hang out with all my favorite players."
She would also like to tackle Broadway someday.
Meanwhile, Patty performs concerts, makes recordings and gives special performances with big city orchestras.
She also shares her "journey" with other women as a speaker and soloist at weekend Women of Faith conferences throughout the country. Depression is often the topic of discussion.
"I'm not sure why it seems more people now struggle with depression than before," Patty said. "Perhaps we are just being more honest than the women in the generation before us. I believe we have to get real and talk about our lives with honesty and candor. The truth sets us free. It's not that we talk about it to stay stuck there, but so we can release it and allow God to do his healing work."
McManaway has high hopes for Patty's Spring Hill concert.
"My hope," he said, "is that the community will be blessed by this opportunity to witness this truly great performer and the voice with which the Lord has blessed her."