Gospel Roundup

From Left to Right: Aretha Franklin, Pastor Mike McClure, Jr., and Bernice King

Pastor Mike Jr. Presents “Dream Big” on MLK Day

Pastor Mike McClure, Jr., also known as Stellar Award-winning gospel artist Pastor Mike Jr., paid special tribute from his hometown of Birmingham, AL to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a monologue titled “Dream Big.” Pastor Mike Jr., senior pastor of Rock City Birmingham in Birmingham, AL, livestreamed the impactful and timely dramatic, preached message from the historic Birmingham Civil Rights Institute from within a replicated cell from where King had written his famed “Letter from A Birmingham Jail.” Pastor Mike Jr. portrays himself as an imprisoned man of God who during the time of the life of Christ, shares wisdom concerning his circumstances. The virtual event, still available on YouTube, premiered on Monday evening on January 17th commemorating the nation’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  The 38-year-old Pastor Mike Jr. was not even born during the Civil Rights era, but as learned his appreciation of Dr. King firsthand from his own grandfather, civil rights activist Bishop Calvin Woods who was handpicked by Dr. King to spearhead activities for the movement in Alabama.

Celebrated Georgian Known as “Happy Preacher” Has Died

On Saturday, January 15th hearts were shattered as the news quickly spread about the passing of Elder Cal Merrell. The man known widely amongst the Christian community “Happy Preacher” gained notoriety for his charismatic and oftentimes animated style of praise and worship. Oftentimes, Elder Merrell would be photographed with his signature tiny tambourine. He was a fixture at many COGIC events but never limited his ability to spread the joy of the Lord wherever he went. “Happy Preacher” was a man with a bigger than life personality and a heart to match. He picked up his moniker in 1963, but the name was also representative of the life he lived.  Many pastors and church leaders spoke of his unselfish manner of supporting and encouraging everyone in ministry. His impact on the Atlanta community was widespread and news of his death spurred an outpouring of tributes from many including Bernice King, CEO of the King Center, and daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta King, who said that Elder Merrell had been a participant in Dr. King’s commemorative events for over 40 years and those commemorative events will never, ever, be the same without him.

Aretha Franklin Tribute Tour

Bandleader, musician, and multi-genre composer Damien Sneed has announced a touring show titled “A Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Show,” a tribute to the musical legacy of the late Ms. Franklin who he worked with and regarded as a mentor. The tour will feature music directed by Sneed that will feature a diverse cast of musicians and vocalists including four-time Grammy winner and gospel legend Karen Clark-Sheard and the Songwriters Hall of Fame honoree, Valerie Simpson of Ashford & Simpson. The tour will kick off on Thursday, February 3, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, FL at the Parker Playhouse and will conclude with a final performance at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College in Flushing NY.

Megachurch Pastor Goes Viral After Rubbing Spit in a Man’s Face

Pastor Mike Todd, prominent lead pastor of the Transformation Church in Tulsa, OK, found himself on the hotseat recently when the public reacted to a surreal moment captured on video of the megachurch pastor rubbing his spit onto the face of another a man. “Receiving God’s vision can be nasty” said Todd during a sermon that immediately went viral. Many were left wondering, what was he thinking in an era where people are ultra-sensitive about potentially contracting a virus that has already claimed over 4.5 million lives throughout the world. Pastor Todd said he watched the replay of the video and admitted it was “a distraction”. In his own posted video, he explained that “he was trying to make the Word come alive, but it got too live.” To his credit, he immediately owned up, addressed, and apologized for the incident he admitted “was disgusting.” Perhaps this can serve as a teachable moment for all that it doesn’t pay to be “nasty.”

Lilly Endowment Grant Donates $20 Million to Preserve Black Churches

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lilly Endowment Inc. made a philanthropic pledge to donate $20 million dollars towards the preservation and rebuilding of historical Black churches. The grant recognizes the importance of Black churches in history, not just as places of worship, but as safe spaces and cornerstones for communities of color. The large donation will be used to help to preserve not only the physical structures, but it will help save the legacies of Black churches from across the nation. Black churches have always had historic value during the Civil Rights Movement and even today churches still maintain a significant role in the civic identity of the communities in which they reside. The announcement of the multi-million-dollar donation to fund the Preserving Black Churches Project was made on Monday, January 17th coinciding with the observance of Dr. King’s holiday.