Nearly 10,000 at Praisefest pray for Cleveland to heal and unify !
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The annual Praisefest returned to The Q Sunday night, drawing close to 10,000 people who prayed together for Cleveland and urged God to help the city heal.
The nondenominational event was free and featured a fast-moving four hours of gospel music, praise dancing and speeches.
“We invite the Holy Spirit into The Q arena,” said the Rev. Daniel Macon, co-pastor of Mount Zion of Oakwood Village, who helped organize the fourth annual event. “This is a place known for the spirit of joy and happiness right now, for our Cleveland Cavaliers. We know if we present that same spirit, a change will come in our Christian community.”
Forbes magazine took a bashing as Macon and others poured out their wrath for the magazine’s ranking of Cleveland as the nation’s most miserable city.
“We want to bring unity to the city,” and to strike a more hopeful tone than the Forbes article, Macon said.
The Praisefest featured special tributes to victims of violence, as well as a prayer for Cleveland schools, led by the Rev. C. Jay Matthews. Cleveland schools CEO Eugene Sanders was recognized at the event, which was presented in partnership with United Pastors in Mission, The Baptist Ministers Conference, Radio One Cleveland and Praisefest International.
It was an opportunity to see young people with positive values in the spotlight. The audience cheered enthusiastically for four teens — Denisha Gholston, Nichelle Ruffin, Keon Abner and Ciera West — who took the stage to announce that they intend to stay virgins until they’re married, in keeping with the Bible’s teachings.
“I want every young person to follow God’s will and just remain abstinent until they’re married. We are worth the wait,” said Denisha, a 10th-grader at Whitney Young School of Excellence.
She said she helped start a club at her school — Youth Expanding Their Territory — to talk about “sex and our generation, and the changes we need to make.”
Ciera, 16, a fellow student at Whitney Young, said she is trying to set an example for her friends by not listening to degrading hip-hop, although it’s a struggle.
“Music is a big part of teenagers’ lives today, and if they could just realize how it influences them, I think our generation could honestly make a change,” she said.
Backstage, the friends said they hope they encouraged even some single adults to think about making the same decision.
“This is the biggest crowd I ever talked in front of. I was so excited,” Denisha said.
Another youth group that electrified the crowd was the Sons of God, a trio of gospel mime dancers in white face paint and black robes. The trio, comprised of Patrick Wright, 11, Steven Doaty, 12, and Martin Parries, 17, had the audience standing on their feet applauding as they used acrobatic and emotional movements to magnify their presence in the huge arena.
Several dozen nonprofit, civic and service organizations used the Praisefest as an opportunity to hand out fliers from information tables dotting the concourse.
“You’ve got public officials down here and you’ve got everyday people. That’s a blessing. Where else could you do this?” said Loretta McKinley, director of Mount Zion of Oakwood Village’s 150-member Total Praise Choir.
She called Praisefest a great way to appeal to people who have not been in church.
“It doesn’t matter what color or denomination. Everybody’s just down here worshipping God, and it gives them a chance to reconnect, to get closer to the Lord,” she said.
The concert wasn’t without its glitches. When it officially kicked off at 5 p.m., the gates were just rising at the main entrance near the ticket door, keeping hundreds of attendees stuck in human gridlock for the first half-hour.