Expect far more than a simple song to rise when Columbus’ Secenia Harris lets her Christian faith flow from somewhere deep within at the 15th Annual Gospel Musical.

The free Black History Month event slated Feb. 28 at Columbus’ Calvary Community Church features part old-time revival, part social studies recap and part bonding experience for the area minority community.

“Gospel music and the gospel itself is the enduring power that has helped a people rise through the years and through decades of hardship such as slavery and discrimination,” said Secenia Harris, co-founder of the event and wife of the Rev. Mike Harris, pastor of Faith Hope and Love Church of God In Christ, where the gathering began. “This is the nucleus of black history and who we are — and why we’ve made it from Africa to here through slavery, the civil rights struggle, Jim Crowe laws and everything else.”

Five area church choirs, praise teams or other ensembles will present Christian worship music in various styles from traditional spirituals to perhaps even a touch of hip-hop. It has attracted 150 to 200 people most years, according to organizers. Frequently, the crowd has included the Columbus mayor, leaders from the Bartholomew County Area Branch of the NAACP and other dignitaries.

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Among other selections, Secenia Harris, the minister of music at Faith Hope and Love Church of God In Christ, she figures she will hear “Lift Every Voice.”

“That last line always brings a tear to my eye,” Secenia Harris said.

The close includes the words:

Shadowed beneath thy hand,

May we forever stand.

True to our God,

True to our native land.

Mike Harris noted that the event “has really helped build bridges among the churches, and we have found out that we can do more together (than separate),” as he put it.

He mentioned that such togetherness has strengthened the local African American Pastors Alliance to allow the ministerial group to become more visible, sponsoring not only this gathering and the recent Martin Luther King Jr. Day Community Breakfast but also a three-day event bolstering race relations last year.

The pastor said the day is coming when he and his wife will pass the event to a younger team of organizers to give it new life.

Charlene Bosley, wife of the Rev. David C. Bosley, Dayspring pastor and a member of the church’s four-member praise team, sees almost all of the annual gathering’s music linked in one way or another to yesteryear.

“I’ve always seen it as a unifying experience for the local African-American community,” Bosley said. “And obviously, there’s a lot of history behind many of the old African-American spirituals.”

Her favorite component focuses on the general fellowship and the praise, which she sees as a lifter of the spirit. She’s hoping that a favorite contemporary worship song, Anthony Brown’s “Worth,” might be a part of this year’s assembly.

She easily rattled off the opening portion of the song’s lyrics:

You thought I was worth saving

So you came and changed my life.

You thought I was worth keeping

So you cleaned me up inside.

You thought I was to die for

So you sacrificed your life.

The musical has helped the various church members find common ground, said Mike Harris, setting them up for other-wordly relationships.

“We all knew each other,” the pastor said. “But we generally stayed in our own silo.

“But you know what? We can’t do that. Because when we get to heaven, that’s not going to be the case.”

Coming together

What: 15th Annual Gospel Musical featuring choirs or music groups from five churches: Faith Hope and Love Church of God In Christ, Calvary Community Church, Dayspring Church of God Apostolic, Thy Kingdom Come Ministries and God’s House Missionary Baptist Church.

When: 4 p.m. Feb. 28. Lasts about 90 minutes.

Where: Columbus’ Calvary Community Church, 1031 Chestnut St.

Admission: Free and open to all.

Organizer: African American Pastors Alliance.

Why: To celebrate Black History Month and to promote unity among the area’s predominantly black churches.

Information: The Rev. Mike Harris and Secenia Harris at 812-342-3655.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.