During February 19-21, 2004, the world's largest Praise & Worship Conference convened in Atlanta, GA. promising to feature a spectacular weekend line-up of major Gospel artists and speakers from around the globe and it delivered! The Gospel Heritage Foundation Praise and Worship Conference was a blessing for all who attended. Teresa Hairston, Founder and President of GHF created a family event that raised the bar on exactly what a worship conference is all about.
The event started out right with Morning Prayer at the Atlanta Airport Hilton Hotel one of the host hotels for the workshop. The opening session featured Psalmist, Stephen Hurd, Vanessa Williams, Karen Clark-Sheard, Highest Praise Dancers and the speaker for the event was none other than Pastor Donnie McClurkin, of New York's own Perfecting Faith Church.
There were several workshops for youth as well as adult attendees for the conference that were held daily at the Hilton or the other host hotel the Airport Renaissance. Yes this event was so full of happenings that two hotels were needed to handle all of the activities. Some of the topics that these workshops covered were; What does it mean to be "Holy"? Essentials of Organization for Ministers of Music/Worship leaders, and Foundational Elements of Christians in business and ministry. Yes if you had a question about any aspect of music, business and ministry this was the place to be.
There was also an independent label/unsigned artist showcase which was judged by some of the biggest names in the music industry including Michelle Duffie of Compendia Music, Jackie Patillo, Integrity, and Jacquie Haselrig of The Light radio broadcast. This allowed the nation's hottest "undiscovered" talent to perform and receive direction from the judges.
The hottest and most attended workshop for the conference was Praise Team Unity conducted by Byron Cage and Stephen Hurd. What started out to be a lecture ended up as a worship service when Pastor Donnie McClurkin begin to minister on the importance of tithing. There was a full fledge Holy Ghost movement in the room and strong holds were broken! Several people were "slain" in the spirit at the end of this workshop and naturally it ran over the allowed time, but when the spirit is moving all you can do is go with the flow. This standing room only workshop left an impact on several of the attendees and I know for me it was an awesome and inspiring service.
Another highlight of the weekend was the annual Gospel Heritage Awards & Concert Gala on Thursday night. Honorees included award winning Gospel artist, Dorothy Norwood; the innovative John P. Kee & New Life; Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the event's 20,000+-member host church, New Birth Baptist church in Lithonia, GA.; and the legendary actress and pastor, Della Reese.
The show was hosted by Dr. Bobby Jones, Karen Clark Sheard and Byron Cage. The awards were taped and aired on The Word Network. Check your local listings to find out what time you can view this wonderful program in your area.
On the second night of the conference, a live recording was presented. New songs and national talent graced the stage of New Birth Baptist Church for a unique and memorable historic presentation.
Saturday, Bishop T.D. Jakes took the stage to conduct the phenomenal closing of the conference and celebration for Gospel Today Magazine 15th Anniversary. As the keynote speaker Bishop T.D. Jakes delivered a stirring message for all!
Now if you missed all or some of the workshops and events of the conference don't fret because you can order VHS or cassette tapes of all the classes and shows. Just log onto www.gospelheritagefoundation.org for more information.
Most of the events for the evening that were held at New Birth were open to the public so I was shocked that they were not standing room only concerts. In fact the 2004 Gospel Heritage Awards show, which was a beautiful gala and celebration, was not attended by many. It is my hope that next year Ms. Hairston will receive more community support from the local area and that a packed out house will take place at all the events for this conference. I think everyone in the Atlanta area should mark their calendars and attend the next conference because this conference blessed my soul and I know it would do the same for everyone who attends.