The sanctuary of Victory Baptist Church rang with praise Saturday night as the community came together to support Our House, itself a sanctuary for victims of domestic violence.
Many in the audience and on the program had survived their own experience with physical and sexual abuse in the home, but the message for the evening was not one of despair, but one of joy. The joy was in the people and it was in the music as the audience of more than 200 raised their voices in thanksgiving to God and for each other.
Our House launched its mission in 1994 with more determination than money. It started with a modest agenda - public education, coordination of support and legal services, and a 24-hour crisis line. In 2000, Polk County Board of Commissioners and W.D. Trippe Foundation funds made it possible to buy an actual house, which opened its doors as a state-certified women’s shelter in 2001. The Our House thrift store on Main Street opened in 2002
The event at Victory Baptist Saturday night was one of several annual fund-raisers Our House holds through the year. Billed as “An Evening of Gospel Singing,” it was certainly that and much more.
The individuals and choirs sang a program of gospel with power and conviction. Songs that started out quietly built to crescendos that rattled the rafters. Two performance artists added even more drama and meaning to the music. Cedartown Police Chief and emcee Jamie Newsome kept the audience entertained between performances.
The acapella harmonies of the Haskins’ Family started off the evening. Evelyn (Ma) Haskins’ closed their set with a powerful rendition of “Tis the Old Ship of Zion.”
The audience also gave Brother James Hemingway of International Gospel Outreach a warm reception. Hemingway engaged the audience in a spirited call and response during “My God is Able.” On other songs, the audience contributed tender harmonies that filled the sanctuary.
Two choirs gifted the audience with a set of gospel and hymns: The Cedar Lake Christian Center Praise Team, and The Voices of the Master choir and Marvin Williams, both gave “we dare you not to stand up” performances that had the audience and the choirs moving in rhythm together.
Evangelist Angikita Simms brought her voice to the celebration, as well.
Praise dancers from the Friendship Followers of Christ Friendship Baptist Church enthralled the audience with their graceful performance.
Keena Helen brought the audience to its feet with her mime performance, where she translated word and music into movement. Helen started acting out pantomimes to music in “my mother’s living room” when she was 12. Now, 26, she says her art is her mission, and she carries that mission to congregations and events around the state.
In addition to the singing, speakers gave brief accounts of their experiences with Our House. Board Chair Rev. Nancy F. English talked about the beginnings of the organization; other speakers shared their personal experiences with domestic violence. All emphasized that domestic violence is real and present in every strata of society.
There was no admission charge for the evening, although there was a period when an love offering could be made.
Anyone who wants to volunteer, donate, or support Our House in any way, can contact executive director Conni Purser at 770-748-2300.
Our House board members are: Rev. Nancy F. English, president; Stacy Little, vice president; Julie Redden, secretary; and Layne Sanders, treasurer.
At-large members are Janine Hand, Carla Kinslow, Linda Liles, and Carol Saunders. The Our House advisory board members are Karen Nissen, Chair, Robert Barton, Rev. David Grove, Ellen Hester, Larry Kuglar, Darice Lewis, Britt Madden Jr., Jamie Newsome, and Dr. Heather Pryor.