Thursday, November 12, 2009

God's Miracles - Part One

My dear mather and I have been co-writing on Collideoscope over a subject near and dear to us, and that is the subject of Atlanta West Pentecostal Church winning the Verizon-sponsored How Sweet the Sound competition for 2009. It is a competition to find "the best church choir in America." Go here if you would like to hear a great run-down of this amazing story and simultaneously understand the rest of my post.

And Now, The Rest of the Story
I did, in fact, hitch a ride with some of the members of my church to Detroit, MI, for the Nationals Competition. It was held on Saturday, November 7th; we arrived at [straggled into] our lodging at a modest 4 o'clock in the morning that same Saturday.We left at four in the afternoon to meet with dozens of family members and some of their personal friends whom they'd invited to come with us to HSTS.

The Atmosphere
When we first alit into the arena at 6:30 pm, we were met with a very energetic atmosphere. People were bustling about towards their seats; they were knowingly throwing money away in the hopes of a dinner/after-dinner-snack; they were meeting with their guests and finding out where to sit down. Well, as a good hour-and-a-half wore on, it seemed to frazzle. Everyone [including me] was beginning to look at our watches and having it dawn on us that we'd apparently arrived 1.5 hours early for ... nothing. But I digress.

The Atmosphere ... Part 2
One thing that many people took advantage of was that you could send a text to whatever designated number and it would show up [eventually] on two huge screens across the arena. So as we drew closer to Donald Lawrence's opening remarks, the mood started to pick up. People homed in on their seats and scarfed down that popcorn. Text messages switched from pictures of girls to, "Take it home, Chicago!" and stuff like that.

Allow me to make some remarks that I might not have been the only person thinking. One thing that nagged at me about HSTS is that the Ryan Seacrests of the competition make it sound like we could be listening to the orchestra for all of the "God" factor involved. Does that make sense? A church choir, from the dawn of time (or whatever), has been assembled to draw Christians in unity to a single praise of God. That is the point. People may have lost that point over the generations, but when you get a choir together, the point is to glorify God. Donald Lawrence is so polished that if you forget what you're really listening for, you'd think the only thing we're looking for is the bounciest choir with the best moves.

What Happened Next
As far as the actual choirs are concerned, I don't really remember the order or the exact songs too much. I had two favorite choirs. One was your seemingly typical choir [at this point in the competition], but they had some serious anointing on them! They sang, "I'm on the battlefield/fighting for the Lord." Seriously, I could have danced in the aisles. The other one was an all-white choir who sang, "Soon and Very Soon"; definitely a good choice, because the audience loved singing along about heaven.
There were one or two choirs I didn't actually understand the words, and they were very energetic, so the audience wanted to praise God with 'em. But it was tough.
There were one or two choirs that I definitely wanted it to be OVER and/or wanted to fall asleep to.
There were a couple of amazing choirs that I admired based purely on technical skill. There was a certain director in the second half of the 11 total choirs who made me tired just looking at him. Don't get me wrong; our church choir director, Brandon Frazier, is totally on the ball. But this guy was giving it 250%, and that choir followed his every move.

The Judges
Let's be honest, here. I was a little skeptical about mixing up the judges from last time. Why keep 1 of 3 judges from regionals if you're going for an "unbiased" mix? And why bring in new judges anyway? Either way, I ended up not minding. They chose Byron Cage, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Marvin Sapp as the finalist judges. They really impressed me. I usually ended up agreeing with their conclusions. They said nice things like "great sound," "keep doin' what you're doin'" "I love your energy, man!" In fact, one time Dorinda Clark-Cole mentioned something about feeling God's Spirit in the room after a particular choir and I got a bit antsy. I hadn't felt much. Maybe I'm just a heathen, and I'm sure God moved, I really am, but I was like, "If she thinks this is anointing, how will it bode for us?" ...
Anyway, Marvin Sapp is definitely my favorite. After he said that whole, "I'm gonna come to church one Sunday, and Imma slip in the back, and I'm just gonna allow some yokes to be destroyed offa my life from this ministry"; yeah, he's awesome.

"Atlanta. West. Pentecostal. Chuuuuuurch!"
So Atlanta West got up, and all of a sudden I started wishing I had been praying like Daniel over us. Three times a day, three hours a day. Unfortunately, I had forgotten, and I started sending up desperate half-worded prayers to God, leaning on my equally desperate hope that He knew what it was I was asking. I didn't even know I was asking. For us to win? For thousands of people to be slain in the Spirit? For the judges to feel Jesus so powerfully? All of it, and more, and I just needed God to do what He does best: the impossible.
As they began to sing, the place was already on its feet. From the first a capella note, the Lord stirred every heart. Here's the link to the video! And man, with every soloist calling out God's praises, and the difficulties I knew choir members had been through in the past weeks, I knew a breakthrough when I saw one. I mean, those judges could barely talk, they were so in the Holy Ghost! I later heard of people staying until midnight praying in the Holy Ghost. People walked up to Pentecostal folks not even from our church and insisted they know where we were from and what was going on with that choir!
I didn't know any of that at the time; they should have given us more room to hoot-n-holler. The whole place like to gone up in flames, if you'll excuse the mixed grammar.

The Results
Don't misinterpret this. But every time Atlanta West has sung at HSTS [which is 4 times, so far], they win People's Choice. People's Choice is when Verizon customers text their favorite choir number to Verizon and they count it as $5,000 awarded for being the people's choice. So I didn't even question, exactly, who was going to get that. It's not as bad as it sounds. You could tell everyone loved Atlanta West.
Anyway, as Donald Lawrence paused an eternity before telling us who had won the National 2009 How Sweet the Sound competition, I was leaning forward off my chair [flirting with gravity's bad side, I might add], whispering/screaming to myself, "SAY IT!!!!" Good news for Mr Lawrence, he said it, and we all jumped up and screeeeeeeeeamed. Half in tongues. It was awesome. "Atlanta. West. PENTECOSTAL. CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURCH!"

The Rest of the Story
To anyone who knows "stuff" I've neglected to mention, let me know, if you'd be so kind. As for me, I really hope God doesn't stop here. He doesn't have a history of doing that, so I want to see how far He takes it!
Your Faithful Correspondent,
God bless.

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