Shiloh Baptist Church Celebrates Centennial with Red & White Gala
Award-winning gospel recording artist Vickie Winans comes to Erie to provide "music ministry."
Anniversaries are meant to be celebrated. But centennials warrant more than a celebration. They deserve a weeks-long jubilee. That's the plan for Shiloh Baptist Church, an Erie institution that turns 100 this spring.
It will all start with a pre-centennial service this weekend at the church, and will conclude with numerous events the weekend of May 15. But perhaps the grandest part will be Saturday, May 2 at the Erie Convention Center, when the church throws a Red & White Gala. Vickie Winans, a prolific, award-winning gospel recording artist, will be on hand to provide what she calls "music ministry" – spreading the joy of God through song. Winans has made a long career out of gospel music, and she's still going strong; on a recent Friday she had purchased tickets for 15 flights in the coming month. She took time from her busy schedule to chat with the Erie Reader about her music and her upcoming performance for Shiloh's centennial.
Sara Toth: To start with, I'm curious how you got started in this business.
Vickie Winans: I was born and raised in a family with 12 kids. Mom and Dad were church-going people – Dad was a deacon and Mom was an evangelist minister, and all we knew was church. Mom sings, and that's where our singing comes from. We were born into it, right there, and stayed.
ST: What's the connection, for you, between God and music?
VW: "Gospel." The word "gospel" means good news. I'm Christian, and that means "Christ-like." I'm singing songs that started way back in the old times, that people sang out of woe and hurt and pain and frustration – "Precious Lord," "Amazing Grace." These were songs of triumph, and the way the world is today, you still need that. I'm singing through my own good and bad situations – it's songs for people in pain and songs for people in joy. Songs that say, "It's not going to be like this always." To sing a song is to be dancing, praising our Lord because of what He has brought us through. When you sing, in my humble opinion, you tell a story of what has happened to you, what has changed and what has been blessed. It's the word of God wrapped in song.
ST: What's the most rewarding part of what you do?
VW: I love people – I'm a giver. I try to give of my smile, of myself. I started a homeless foundation, and I try to do whatever I can to help the poor. I've helped people pay their mortgages. I'm also a stand-up comedian – that evolved from growing up with 11 siblings, not a lot of money but a lot of love – and when I sell my DVDs or go on comedy tours (that benefit the foundation), that's just another blessing I can give to others. People I've helped 20 years ago, they come up to me to still thank me – and I can't even remember sometimes what I've done last week. It's rewarding that you can carve out a path for yourself when you're young to help others. I tell young people all the time, "start today." Start doing the good work for yourself, for others, today. God has been good to me – I'm 61 years old, I've been doing this for more than three decades. The kinds of things I've gotten to do, it's amazing that gospel music has spanned so far across the lines to the mainstream. It's a blessing and I love it. I love what I do.
ST: Can you talk a little bit about what you'll be doing a Shiloh Baptist next month? It's not every day a church – or any institution – hits 100.
VW: No, it does not happen often. I think in my entire life I've met only six people who lived to be 100, and to have something like a church, a place with a foundation that strong, for a church to last that long, that's something to celebrate. It shows that someone was there, passing the baton down to the next person, and to the next person. I'm excited at that. It will be a wonderful celebration – everyone should come out just to hear the history of this church. It's a blessing for that church to be running that long and running that strong. I'm excited to be there.
For more information about Shiloh Baptist's Centennial Celebration, visit shilohcelebration.org, or contact event chairwoman Swanta' Pulliam at email@example.com. Tickets to the Red & White Gala can be purchased at shilohcelebration.org or at any Widget Financial Branch, or Sundays at the Church's Fellowship Hall.