Rain or Shine, Gospel Fest Comes Through

LONG BEACH-God always provides a ram in the bush. The good people running the 2015 Long Beach Gospel Festival, needed God to come through with a ram in the worst way after rain poured down from the skies to interrupt the daylong concert in Long Beach, California.

It wasn’t looking good. After running through preliminary acts and performers, the 2015 Long Beach Gospel Festival, heralded as the biggest gospel concert in Southern California, looked like it was going to be a washout when the rain started coming down.

Top-billed headliners like Tasha Cobbs, Tina Campbell, Jonathan Nelson and Deitrick Haddon, some of the biggest names in gospel music, hadn’t even touched the stage when the weather turned from humidity and hot to wet and cool with the barrage of water steadily coming down.

Gospel vocalist Tasha Cobb took praise and worship to another level at the 2015 Gospel Fest. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Gospel vocalist Tasha Cobbs took praise and worship to another level at the 2015 Long Beach Gospel Festival. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

As one might imagine, the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 concert attendees probably couldn’t believe this was happening, even though most of them came prepared for a potential rain onslaught, umbrellas and folding tents already in tow.

Safety concerns eventually forced the concert to be stopped. Some people thought that was a wrap. There would be no more concert. The enjoyment of listening to live gospel music would now be contained to their radios or CD players in their vehicles. But somehow, someway, that ram in the bush came through for Antioch Church of Long Beach co-pastors Wayne Chaney Jr. and Myesha Chaney, hosts of the 2015 Long Beach Gospel Festival.

Instead of throwing in the towel and seeing their vision of thousands of people coming together in the name of Christ through the creativity of gospel music, the Chaney’s took a step in faith and received a reprieve for the concert to be salvaged.

Acclaimed gospel artist Tina Campbell, one half of the highly-touted “Mary, Mary” group that she and sister, Erica Campbell, comprises, speaks to the audience at the City of Refuge during the 2015 Long Beach Gospel Festival. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Reaching out to his “Preachers in LA” co-host and fellow pastor, Bishop Noel Jones, Rev. Wayne Chaney Jr. moved the concert to Gardena, where Jones’ home temple-City of Refuge-sits. It turned out to be more than a good move. The all day praise party, which began with a cool, by-the-beach vibe, intensified with high praise and worship electricity.

Jessica Reedy, Myron Butler and Kierra Sheard gave people something to shout about when they were on stage before the rain breakout took place. When the concert shifted to the City of Refuge, the praise seemed only to magnify. The joy of worship picked up with an energy of desperation. Being laid back, cool and kicking it, was not an option once the 2015 Long Beach Gospel Festival changed location.

The direction in attitude seemingly spilled over from that fact that Jones was still in the pulpit preaching and teaching when festival followers walked in on his normal Sunday evening teaching session. While waiting for the concert to re-boot, festival attendees sat, listened and received some powerful spiritual synergy from the City of Refuge pastor.

Gospel singer Kierra Sheard goes to work on a song at the 2015 Long Beach Gospel Festival. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

And that carried over into the concert. So when the concert revived, Jonathan Nelson dived head first in the lifting of people’s spirits with his barrage of praise songs. That set the stage for a magnetic, powerful performance by Tasha Cobbs. The gospel fireball didn’t just light a match under the seats of concert parishioners, she set them on spiritual fire.

The best way to describe Cobbs’ time on stage is descriptive of one word: power. You could feel the essence of power that Cobbs draws from. There are a lot of people who can sing, who can holler and wail. Cobbs brings God’s power to her music. She isn’t just singing; she’s testifying. And this is what makes her music so moving.

It is hard to fathom sitting still in your seats when Cobbs lets loose with her vocal gift and brings the message of power and healing with it. Talk about being on fire for God, Cobbs is exactly that on stage. Tina Campbell can share that sentiment. One half of the successful gospel group, “Mary, Mary,” that she formed with sister Erica Campbell, Tina Campbell can certainly vouch for the power of God.

But before she lifted her voice for one note, Tina Campbell gave a testimony of what it was like going through a very public divorce where details of the debacle gave way to her doing things un-Christ like. Eventually, though, she and her husband reconciled. By sharing her testimony of seeking Christ while battling her own imperfection, Tina Campbell is a perfect example of what makes going to a gospel concert different from other musical events.

In a moment’s notice, through music or through simple words of encouragement, the Gospel of Christ can sweep through your body and soul with powerful anticipation. If the 2015 Long Beach Gospel Festival ended prematurely like some people thought it would, some people may have missed out on that opportunity to receive that blessing.

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