Sunday, October 28, 2007

At Bethel A.M.E Zion: Celebrating The Work Of Love"


It was "Saturday Night Live" at the Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church in Kingsport on Saturday, October 27, 2007.


The Church Celebrated The Work of Love, with a program of spiritual singing provided by two musical groups, spiritual dances, and memories of down-home churching in comedic style, by Kingsport's own Tim Hall.

The program was called "100 Men In Black," and although 100 men in black were not present, you would not have known it, for the voices that were lifted to God's Praise Saturday night, more than made up for it.

Sister Vivian Releford was the Mistress of Ceremony, with musical interludes by Dawnella Ellis. The night began with the Praise Dancers from the Hale's Chapel United Methodist Church. These graceful young women used their talents to the maximum, and their elegant moves stirred the audience with religious favorites put to music.. a fitting introduction to the upcoming songs. Later, the dancers took their motions of praise to the audience, and there wasn't a dry eye in the House of the Lord.

Wallace Ross, Junior read a poem that he wrote 40 years ago while a soldier in Vietnam. The poem was a moving tribute to fellow soldiers trying to do their country's bidding, during a war that nobody cared for.

The New Beginnings Quartet from Gate City and Pennington Gap, Virginia started the singing, with an audience favorite "Cooling Waters." This is a song that perhaps your grandmama sang in the church of old, picturing the cool baptismal water that welcomed them into church membership. That song was followed up by "Let It Rain." Many an audience member paused to remember that the rain that flows from Heaven, is a healing rain of comfort and tranquility in a world of desparity. Members of New Beginnings are Marshall Long, Bob Payne, James Wood and Ronnie Carson. To contact the group, call James at 1-276-386-6693 or Ronnie at 1-276-546-5144, or email the group at

Next, the We Five Quintet took the audience on a spiritual journey with "This Is Your House (Come and Dwell.") Then, a good ole gospel rendition of "There's Something 'Bout The Name Jesus" brought many in the audience to their feet. That was followed by a song many a church member has sung "I Made It." We Five members are Melvin Conley, Johnny Russaw, James Whiteside, Alfred Greenlee and Pastor V. Dial.

Then, Kingsport's own Tim Hall delighted the audience with comedic memories of church, and how black folk conduct services. Tim is a gifted comedian (we hear he can sing, too) and a crowd favorite, because everybody identifies with the church members and situations he speaks of. Highlighted on this night.. the "uershers," those church guardians who spot the ONE child chewing gum in church with a quick finger point and a swifter "lemme have that." And let's not forget, he says, the church member he spots in a place church members are not supposed to be (he does note the fact that he's there, too). The audience was in stitches.

The entire program at Bethel was a truly inspirational event, and if you missed it, you really missed a premiere event. It really took the audience back home to good, ole-time gospel religion singing, the kind we were raised up with, and the kind you may not hear much of anymore. It was an evening well worth the time and efforts of the organizers.