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In the Black community, gospel music uses a message to draw people of faith to worship

Members of Friendship Baptist Church during Sunday services.
Cory Patterson
Members of Friendship Baptist Church in Fort Myers during Sunday services.

The power of music has the ability to bring us joy, comfort and motivation.

Gospel music in particular, has long been that medium that connects followers to the message of hope and faith.

“The black church has a rhythm. From the preaching to the teaching, to the ministries to the choir it has a rhythm in it. There’s a soul to it. It really is the soul of the church which is still the soul of the black community. It has always been centered around preaching and music.” says Pastor Jarrod Parker of Friendship Baptist Church in Fort Myers.

Friendship Baptist Church was established in Fort Myers in 1912. It sits on the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Palm Avenue in the Dunbar community. The name "Friendship" is reflected in the warmth one feels when walking through the doors. Hugs, handshakes and smiles are in abundance where love is the cornerstone of the message.

Rose Eady has been choir director at Friendship Baptist for more than 30 years. Though recently retired and passed her duties to a new choir and music director, Eady remains a firm believer in the importance of gospel music in the church.

“The essence of gospel music is the word of God. Because that’s what gospel music is. It’s the good news of Jesus Christ. The choir actually sometimes sets the tone for the beginning of the worship service.” said Eady.

Esmond Lewis is Associate Musical Director at Friendship and said gospel music speaks life.

"It speaks a message to people at all levels. From joy to pain. From sickness to death. The message of the gospel in song and expressed in music can touch whatever your soul needs at any points of those times,” said Lewis.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey is known as the "father of modern gospel music." He wrote 3,000 songs with his most notable the powerful “Precious Lord, Take my Hand.”

But gospel isn't just one genre — it has its roots in spirituals, hymns and the blues.

Rasheed Golden is the new choir and music director at Friendship Baptist. He sees gospel music as a way to minister to people andprovide food for the soul.

“It’s a barrier breaker. Some people come in with a lot on their shoulders. And they can just hear the music and maybe they did come to hear a message but that music just softens them up enough just so the pastor can get his message through. Gospel music is that soup that brings everybody together,” Golden said.

“Gospel music speaks life," Lewis said. "It speaks a message to people at all levels. From joy to pain, from sickness to death. The message of the gospel in song and expressed in music can touch whatever your soul needs at any points of those times.”

Pastor Jarrod Parker knows that the choir is sometimes what brings people into the church.

“I pastored some churches where they came to hear the choir. But that’s ok. That can be the draw but while they’re there, let me preach the Word to them,” said the pastor.

Pastor Parker also understands how gospel music, the word in song, can touch people deeply and provide encouragement and inspiration.

“I’ll tell you, when you have a frustrating, disappointing week or you have particular challenges in your life and you come here and hear songs like, ’How excellent is thy name’ or you come here and hear praise and worship music, that’s just totally different from your experience during the week, it’s something that you can’t explain,” says Parker.

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