A gospel celebration

Apostle Jeffery Cash & Praise perform during the King Celebration 2011 National Holiday Gospel Program at the King Center following the commemorative march.

Doug Finger/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9:17 p.m.

Gainesville-area native gospel singers Beverly Crawford and Apostle J.L. Cash & Praise had people on their feet and raising their hands to uplift the name of Jesus at the annual King Celebration Gospel Program.

The program was held Monday at the King Center after several hundred people braved rainy conditions to march from the Bo Diddley Community Downtown Plaza to the King Center during the King Celebration annual commemorative march.

The program also included performances by the King Celebration Community Choir, Showers of Blessings Harvest Center Youth Choir, Dagna Galarza Ministries of Ignite Life Center in northwest Gainesville, and students from Heavenly Kids Academy, which is owned by Pastor Shirley Watts of the Community Praise Center in northeast Gainesville.

The Rev. Karl "The Rev." Anderson, senior co-pastor of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ, and Watts, served as the master and mistress of ceremony.

Crawford performed near the end of the program just before Cash. She asked the more than 200 people in attendance if they were ready to praise the Lord.

"Are you excited and ready to have some church?" Crawford asked. She then sang "Everything is Going to be Alright."

She said she attended the Stellar Awards in Nashville Saturday night before catching an early-morning flight from there to Los Angeles to perform on Sunday. She said she then caught another early-morning flight to Gainesville to be able to perform Monday at the program.

"My prayer is, Lord, I just want to serve you well," Crawford said before singing "I Just Want to Serve You Well."

Crawford and her husband, Todd Crawford, are the co-pastors of the Gainesville Family Worship Center in northeast Gainesville. She said churches need to fellowship with each more and not be divided.

She finished her performance by singing "For Who You Are" and "It's Time for a Miracle."

Cash then closed the program out with his musicians, seven background singers and two liturgical dancers, who combine to provide a powerful, dynamic and energetic stage presence. Cash talked to the crowd about being serious about heaven and about enjoying the "right now" because "you don't know what tomorrow is going to bring."

The group performed "I Got a Feeling Everything is Going to be Alright," "He Keeps on Doing Great Things for Me" and "Thanks for Making Me Wait."

Numerous family members and friends came up to Cash for hugs as he sat watching Crawford perform, and he engaged others as he walked among the crowd near the end of his performance. He was then given his guitar and began to play while the background singers continued to sing.

"Sometimes you got to trust in God even when you don't know what he is doing," Cash said.

The students from Heavenly Kids Academy displayed their math skills through hip-hop math routines and techniques developed by the late Gloria J. Merriex, an innovative math teacher at Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy.

The children were led by local resident Anthony Guice, who volunteered in Merriex's classroom for eight years. He is now volunteering at Heavenly Kids Academy.

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