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Dozens left their seats and raised their hands skyward Friday night as Cynthia Cole’s voice climbed toward heaven.
Standing statue still with no initial musical accompaniment, Cole lit the match for what turned into a fiery night of music at First Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, where visitors and church members celebrated the Earth’s Heavenly Angels’ Gospel Fest. The gospel musical celebrates Black History Month and now is in its 27th year.
Through proceeds, the scholarship committee creates college scholarships for graduating seniors of the church holding a 2.5 grade point average or higher, according to coordinator Pam Harper.
“We’re going to have a good time in the lord,” said Thelma White, president of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. “That’s what we came here for.”
White, who provided the night’s welcome, said the church has been fortunate to afford space to host the musical for so many years. It routinely attracts hundreds of guests and Friday was no exception as the church was filled to near capacity. Harper estimated 300 to 350 were in attendance and described the musical as a preliminary praise service.
“I call it a rehearsal service for going on up yonder,” she said.
Harper said Saturday the amount collected was not known because expenses have not been tallied.
White said she is proud of the partnership between ECTC and the church to provide financial support for those young people seeking an education, and pointed out scholarship recipients attend other colleges.
“We’re so pleased we’re able to take part,” White said.
Kendra Stewart Scott, a scholarship committee member and emcee for the night, touted individual, group and choir performances, encouraging visitors to get comfortable and enjoy themselves.
“You’re going to leave this place so full of the spirit and ready to do God’s will,” she said.
Natasha King gave an animated performance in honor of her father, who is recovering from surgery.
“You made your daddy proud tonight,” Scott said.
Shortly after, the women of One Accord approached the crowd with the theme “No One Can Do You Like Jesus.”
“There’s only one BFF (best friend forever) and that’s Jesus,” she said.
Larry Holliman, a vocalist for the Peacemakers, encouraged the crowd to have an “attitude of gratitude” and said those in Christ are new creatures.
“Old things have passed,” he said.
The Peacemarkers harkened back to the soulful vibes of Motown with a variation of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”
The Rev. B.T. Bishop, pastor of First Baptist Church, said the audience should be a light and a guiding force for today’s young people, who need assistance in attending college. He thanked God for the sustainability of the program and encouraged those in attendance to be “cheerful givers” as he blessed the offerings.
“We see the fruits of (those) labors,” he said.
Scott described the offering as a time for those who cannot sing or dance to participate in their own way.
Harper said the event proved the gender, race and religious backgrounds of those in attendance did not matter as they came together to worship God.
“It was truly a community event,” she said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenews enterprise.com.