ST. LOUIS

In a break from its traditional breakfast program at General Assembly, the Presbyterian Foundation used music to deliver its message to mid council leaders.

“This year we wanted to speak to your hearts,” said the Rev. Tom Taylor, the Foundation’s president and CEO. With that, he introduced ― for the speaking-to-the-heart part ― Fernando Ortega, a three-time Dove Award winner, who performed for more than an hour. His music eloquently told stories of faith, family and friends, humor and love.

In his introduction, Taylor described the classically trained singer and musician as “that long-lost friend who you have never met.” Ortega, singing and playing a Steinway grand, quickly made a roomful of new friends.

Fernando Ortega (left), a three-time Dove Award winner, performs with cellist and vocalist Cara Fox (right) at the Foundation breakfast. Photo by Danny Bolin

Fernando Ortega (left), a three-time Dove Award winner, performs with cellist and vocalist Cara Fox (right) at the Foundation breakfast. Photo by Danny Bolin

Taylor had said that mid-council leaders often go unrecognized for their work, they actually take on “some of the hardest ministries of the church.” He told his audience of leaders, “We care about you, we think about you.

Ortega, who grew up in the Second Presbyterian Church of Albuquerque, where he still lives, played and sang in a variety of musical styles, interpreting traditional hymns and performing his own compositions. He was accompanied on a number of selections by cellist and vocalist Cara Fox of Nashville.

Ortega told stories about people he has known, including the elderly woman who provided a place for him to live when he worked as a teacher in a low-paying Christian school, and his grandfather, a weaver and farmer who excelled at both ― then he sang the songs he wrote about them.

And he played the song, “Children of the Living God,” that earned the bluegrass Dove award: “How he loves us with great love, he who sits enthroned above, for our lives he spilled his blood, sent his Spirit like a flood, children of the living God, sing to the living God.”

Finally, Ortega and his new friends together sang the perennial favorite, “Amazing Grace.”