Whether it’s soul music or soul food or finding one’s soul mate, the intangible quality commonly referred to as soul moves like a powerful undercurrent in contemporary culture. So we wanted to ask: What does it mean to be a living, breathing manifestation of this ineffable and yet most compelling dimension of human life? What does it mean to have soul?
To find the answer, we could think of none better qualified to respond than Michael Bernard Beckwith and Rickie Byars-Beckwith. This power couple represents the confluence of what many in Western society associate with soul and soulfulness—spirituality, love, music, community, and African-American culture. The late, great blues guitarist Mississippi John Hurt once remarked, “Soul . . . was nurtured by the Black Man in America.” And, as Rickie clearly demonstrates, the Black Woman, as well.
Dr. Michael Beckwith, a founding member of the Association for Global New Thought, is the guiding inspiration behind the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, California. With more than nine thousand members, it is one of the largest multicultural, transdenominational spiritual communities in the United States. Dr. Rickie Byars-Beckwith, affectionately called a “grace note of God” and beloved for her inspirational music, is a composer, singer, and performer. She leads the Agape International Choir, a multiethnic 150-member choral group, whose a cappella prayer and rousing musical celebrations drive Agape’s Sunday services.
After attending a recent service at Agape, it was clear to WIE editor in chief Andrew Cohen that one would be hard-pressed to find a fuller expression of soul that side of the Great Divide. In the following interview, Cohen engages Michael Beckwith and Rickie Byars-Beckwith in a lively and soulful exploration of the topic.