by Len Lear
Almost any venue in the Philadelphia area that features musical performers will showcase singers and instrumentalists with long resumes. But one of the performers on Friday, June 7, at the Folk Factory Coffeehouse’s annual People’s Choice Concert (top vote-getters of this year’s People’s Choice Open Stages) is definitely an exception to the rule.
McKinley Sims, a full-time Unitarian Universalist minister and part-time guitar player who grew in Texas listening to Buddy Holly and the Crickets and country western music, has never played a gig in public before, although he has played “open stages,” where anyone can get up and perform, regardless of their musical background.
A diamond in the rough, Sims “only knows two songs,” said Bruce Pollack-Johnson, producer of the shows at The Folk Factory Coffeehouse in the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration in Mt. Airy, 6900 Stenton Ave. (at Gorgas Lane)
“You’ll hear them both, probably,” he said.
The performers in the June 7 People’s Choice Concert got the highest percentage of votes in their January through April Open Stages.
“McKinley happened to come on a night when there weren’t many other performers,” said Pollack-Johnson, “and he did an excellent job, so he got a high percentage of votes.”
Sims, 30, who grew up in the Texas panhandle, has lived in Mt. Airy for the past year. He has earned a BA from the College of William & Mary and a Masters of Divinity (M.Div) from Princeton Seminary. He moved to Philadelphia because “I met a woman and fell in love, and she’s from the Philly area … We love Mt. Airy. The only negative is there’s not a movie theater super close.”
What prompted Sims to become a Unitarian minister?
“I responded to the call to love God and love others, no exceptions.”
Sims did not exactly go through an exhaustive job search. “I walked into the Unitarian Society of Germantown looking for a job,” he said. And he got it. Sims’ mother is Episcopalian, and although many traditional Christians consider Unitarians (like Quakers) to be not exactly fully Christian, “My mom loves the liberal faith and our commitment to make the world a better place.”
Musically, Sims has been selftaught since 2010, influenced mostly by country music and classic rock/golden oldies.
What was the hardest thing he ever did?
The best advice he ever got was from his grandfather:
“Don’t get to going too damned fast.”
When asked about his greatest regret, he said, “Tearing my knee up on a mountain in 2017.”
Which talent that Sims does not have would he most like to have?
“Whistling. It’s a common language we all have. It’d be fun to make music with my whistle.”
What super power does Sims wish he had?
“Super strength – in order to help more people!”
If Sims could live anywhere on earth, where would it be and why?
“I’d live in Southern Wales, play rugby and enjoy the beautiful hills and language!”
How would Sims spend a huge amount of money won in the lottery?
“I’d pay off folks’ student loans if I won the lottery.”
What two things would he save if his house was on fire?
“I would save my boots and a cross given to me by a dear friend.”
What is Sims’ most impressive characteristic?
“I’m not afraid to look like a fool.”
If he could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, living or dead, who would it be?
“I’d want to meet Saul of Tarsus and ask him about his views on homosexuality. I think he’d be cool with committed and loving relationships, and that could help heal a lot of rifts and hurts.”
Finally, Sims wanted to give “a shoutout to my mother and sister, Frankie B. and Polly B., Esq.”
Sims will perform Friday, even though he is “terrified of playing music and singing in front of people,” with Pierre Peters, John Krumm’s Open Door Chorus, Melanie and the Lost Vaqueros, Gloria Rohlfs and Jamie Polson/ FIO (Feel It Out). Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show will start at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, call 215-848-6246. The concert is fully handicapped-accessible. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com