"Sojourner keep moving on / Just travel far beyond."
Those two lines from "Sojourner," written, produced and performed by Glen Cove native John Burns for his 2000 CD, "Songs in the Night," might well summarize Burns's extraordinary journey through life.
Although pastor of the for almost 18 years and chaplain for the for a decade, the thread that runs through much of what drives Burns is his music. To examine the body of his work over a period of time, there is the definite feel of someone who is in a place for a while then must move on, pushing the envelope of his art from his early days in music, through his six recorded albums and his religious work over a vast geographical landscape, from Alaska to India to Peru.
Born and raised in Glen Cove in a family that has roots going back decades, including an uncle who was the city's first mayor in 1919, Burns has been in and around music since childhood. His grandfather was a boogie-woogie piano player; his father wrote poetry. He started playing in bands as a teenager. While working on a degree at what was then the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College, he felt a calling and transferred to the Bible Institute of Oyster Bay.
"Like most people my age, I was first influenced by The Beatles and Motown, then played in cover bands, disco bands and wedding bands, even opened for some major jazz acts" he explained. "I thought the move to Bible School would help me write better lyrics."
Clearly those song-writing aspirations were one element of a major life change that took him to working at a church in Oyster Bay, where he also taught Sunday school. But he outgrew that relationship.
"I felt the Lord wanted me to have my own church," he said "When the pastor [at the church on Forest Avenue] invited us, we moved here. Then that pastor left to do missionary work and we remained. We have since added a Spanish-speaking congregation."
While Burns described his church as "full Gospel Pentecostal," he said the congregation is nondenominational, not affiliated with any major religion and welcomes people of all religions.
Given the wrenching religious conflicts throughout the world today, Burns said he finds the term "holy war" a contradiction in terms. "The fruit of all religions should always be peace," he added.
Burns's art is a unique take on religious music. His titles and lyrics are rooted in traditional Christian themes like: "Take It To God," "He'll Make A Way," "Garden of Gethsemane" and "In Your Hands." His music, however, is replete with contemporary influences and intricate arrangements that include Burns singing and playing guitar and keyboards, accompanied by bass, drums and other percussion, as well as an array of horns; all of it written and engineered by Burns, then mixed and mastered by Fred Guarino at .
If his most recent CD, "How Many Ways," is the latest step in a lifelong musical journey, it continues his quest to find a universal sense of inclusion and ultimately the religious fruit that is peace.
"Let's stand together and help each other's joy," he writes. "Forever we will be in perfect harmony."