Gospel trailblazers from across the nation flooded the Community of Faith Church for the International Worship Summit 2016 which, for the first time, was held in Houston.
Legends and legends-in-the-making were on hand to congregate, praise, teach and preach to the hundreds of attendees who filled Bishop James W. Dixon's landmark church over a three-day period.
It was a big deal for the city to host the annual conference, and Dixon says it was no mistake that Houston was chosen.
"We should be very grateful for this catalyst, this spark and the flame that burns now as a result of this worship summit with Gospel Heritage Foundation, and understand that God chose the city and Dr. Hairston was obedient to the assignment," Dixon said. "God chose Houston because he knows what Houston needed. We needed something so spiritual that none of us have an excuse not to connect. I believe it's a beginning place for healing."
Dr. Teresa Hairston is the founder of the Gospel Heritage Foundation. She created the conference and awards ceremony to properly honor those who are on the forefront, and foster the preservation and legacy of Gospel music.
"Twenty-two years ago I decided that we really needed to recognize heritage and those pioneers and trailblazers who paved the way. I started by honoring a trailblazer, Albertina Walker. And her response was so genuine. She was thrilled to be honored by her peers and I thought 'We've got to do more of that.' A lot of the gospel trailblazers, people don't know because maybe they didn't sell millions of records."
The prominence of the gospel genre in today’s musical landscape is inescapable. Gospel has been the foundation for America’s top performers from Elvis Presley, the King of Rock-n-Roll, to Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul.
Well-known artists and leaders, including BET's Dr. Bobby Jones and Hezekiah Walker joined Houston's own Yolanda Adams, Kim Burrell, V. Michael McKay and others in sermons, award presentations and daily workshops.
Adams, McCay and Jones were honored for their achievements and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was honored to her service to the community at the Gospel Heritage Awards ceremony.
Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr. closed out the conference with a powerful sermon about "knowing your assignment" and led the choir in a moving song asking God "Don't do it without me."
"Do you realize how many people are trying to do what we do and sometimes we run away from it and the world is running to it. Gospel music is more appreciated now than ever before," Morton said. "I believe that Gospel heritage is important, if we treasure and value it, we can just take it to the next level."
The conference was held Feb. 18 - 20, and organizers say there are plans for it to return to Houston in the future.