Rev. Dr. Ossie McKinney is the daughter of the late Johnnie and Emma Mack. She was born in St. Louis, MO, and raised in Columbia, LA where she graduated from Caldwell High School. She began taking piano lessons at the age of eight and was a church musician by the age of twelve. She is a worship leader who has served in the music ministry for over thirty-six years. She currently serves as the choral director of McAfee Gospel Choir at McAfee School of Theology on the Atlanta campus of Mercer University. Dr. McKinney is an educator who is dedicated to laying a biblical and missional foundation for worship by inspiring worshipers to connect with God and humankind through relationship, discipleship, and service. She believes that worship is a lifestyle and not an event or a worship service. Her pastoral calling as a worship leader inspires her to not only know the Word of God, sing the Word of God but also be apt to preach and teach the Word of God. Dr. McKinney was licensed to preach the Gospel April 8, 2012 and ordained June 2, 2018. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, a Master of Divinity degree from Mercer University, and a Doctor of Worship Studies degree from Liberty University. In her free time, Dr. McKinney loves to paint, sing and dance to old school R & B music, and tour African-American historical sights. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and loves all things that are pink and green. In 2004, Dr. McKinney opened The Master’s Hands Music Studio. She has been teaching piano lessons for 15 years and especially loves training musicians to accompany worship services. She is the wife of Elder Charles McKinney, Jr. and the mother to five children – Khrystyn, Xavier, Mysty, Treylyn “Tmack,” and Nolan “Napol.” She is a worshipper who is passionate about building genuine relationships.
Amps: How did you end up in Columbia, Louisiana from St. Louis, Missouri?
Dr. McKinney: When I was four years old, my birth mother became ill and was not able to care for me and my two younger sisters. We were taken to Columbia where we were eventually adopted by Emma and Johnnie Mack.
Amps: Did you play any sports during your time in high school?
Dr. McKinney: I did not play any physical sports, but I was a cheerleader. I was a member of the drama club, student council, and Honor Society.
Amps: What were your plans, dreams, and goals after graduation from high school?
Dr. McKinney: (Laughing) it’s funny that you ask that, because after high school I wanted to become a doctor. At that time in my life, I thought I wanted to be a psychiatrist. My deepest desire was to go to college. That was my main dream. But, being raised by parents who could not read and write, and being in a family that did not have a college graduate, I did not know how to get there. I had no clue how I was going to get into college. I actually applied and was accepted into St. Louis University, but I was unsure how to obtain the needed funding to cover tuition, and I had no idea who to ask. I was raised by parents who rarely asked for help. This taught me that I was to be independent and complete tasks by myself. I did not know the importance of networking. I did not know it was okay to ask someone to show me how to reach my goals and dreams.
Amps: You joined the military after high school. Why did you decide to join the military, and why did you choose the Navy?
Dr. McKinney: Lacking the guidance and help to plan for college, I joined the United States Navy upon graduation. I knew joining the Navy would give me access to the GI bill, which would pay my college tuition. I chose to serve active duty in the Navy, because that was the first branch that came to my home and offered to pay my college tuition. My parents advised me that this was my best option. In the Navy, I served as a for photographer’s mate four years. Some of my duties consisted of the operating and maintaining various types of still and video cameras, photographing ceremonies, military personnel, and damaged aircraft parts, and operating lab and darkroom equipment for film and print production. I also served two years in the Louisiana Army National Guard. By the time I left the Navy, I was married with three children. I decided to use the next years to focus on being a mom and a wife. My children became my first full-time ministry. Once all three of my children entered elementary school, I decided to return to my dream of obtaining a college degree. I graduated from University of Louisiana at Monroe with Bachelor of Art degree in music.
Amps: Why did you decide to go back to school to get your master’s degree?
Dr. McKinney: As my kids began to graduate high school, I feared becoming an empty nester. Initially, I returned to school just to keep busy and to keep my sanity as the children became adults and left home. Dr. McKinney: As my kids began to graduate high school, I feared becoming an empty nester. Initially, I returned to school just to keep busy and to keep my sanity as the children became adults and left home. One of my husband’s and my greatest accomplishments has been the ability to guide all four of our older children to secure full scholarships to obtain their Bachelor’s degree. I chose to attend a school that offered scholarships to graduate students. I obtained my Master of Divinity Degree from Mercer University McAfee School of Theology.
Amps: Did you think that you were too old to go back to school?
Dr. McKinney: Well, I was thirty-two years old when I returned to school to get my bachelor’s and forty-two when I decided to obtain my master’s degree. I did not think I was too old. While obtaining my bachelor’s, I was the oldest student the majority of the time. My peers were eighteen and nineteen-year olds who were just getting out of high school. I was in my forties sitting alongside millennials when I obtained my master’s degree. I did not think I was too old. I was inspired and motivated by my classmates to continue and obtain my doctorate degree. They, along with my professors inspired me, empowered me, and made me feel like I could do it.
Amps: When you went back to school to get your master’s how much of a challenge was that for you if any?
Dr. McKinney: Well, it was a little bit of a challenge, but I had a great support system. My children and my husband were my biggest support system, and since I knew they were watching me that gave me the motivation to get it done. The challenge came in stimulating my forty-year-old brain to retain information, read loads of material in a short period of time, and be disciplined to balance home, school, and ministry. I did not always do well in being balanced.
Amps: What advice would you give those who want to go back to school, but may feel they are too old to do so?
Dr. McKinney: It is never too late, and you are never too old. If you desire to return to school or simply go to school, go. You can do it at any age. Do not let fear be the decider of your fate. Make the time to bring to fruition your goals and plans. If you have a dream and it is something that you truly want to do, do it. If you do not know how to accomplish your dream, seek help. Find someone who’s doing what you desire and ask them to mentor or guide you. Never be afraid to ask questions. Never be afraid to try. School is not for the faint of heart. During the time of gaining my bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees I learned to be okay with leaning on others for support and encouragement. I am proud of the fact that although my parents could not read and write I was still able to use the values they taught to push through and eventually obtain my doctorate degree.
Amps: I know that you have been in the church all of your life as many people have, but what was it that made you say ok I want to spend the rest of my life ministering to others?
Dr. McKinney: My husband and seminary. God blessed me to marry a preacher who is also a worshiper after God’s own heart. Serving beside him in ministry and going through seminary allowed me to better recognize the call of God upon my life to serve and love people. Life brought me to the church. My love for God kept me in the church. And when I speak of the church, I don’t mean just the church building. I mean the body of Christ lived out in song and deed. Everything that has happened in my life has shaped and led me to do and live out ministry. At the age of four, I was taken in by a couple who taught me to love the Lord and serve God. Every time the church doors opened, I was there. I remember having to attend Sunday School, BTU (Baptist Training Union), and ALL choir rehearsals. I was the youngest member of the Brownville Baptist Church senior choir and missionary board. My parents were merely striving to shape a Christian. How proud they would be to know they shaped a minister, a worship leader, a teacher and a worship pastor. I am honored that you have chosen to share my story. It is not a grand story, but it is my story. It is a story of a little Louisiana girl who grew up to become a God and people-loving woman. I hope my story inspires others to live and fulfill their dreams. Never give up. Never stop trying. Never stop learning. You’re not too old. Your past may have shaped your future, but your future does not have to be the same as your past.