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Church packed for Bethel concert

Published 11:00 am Monday, July 21, 2014

About 250 people filled the pews of historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Saturday as the church’s nationally renowned Young Adult Choir from the 1970s and ‘80s filled the sanctuary with jubilant, glorious songs.

“What place could be more appropriate, what atmosphere could be more friendly than this beautiful sanctuary where they got their start 30-plus years ago,” said Lois Brown, who served as emcee for the event that is part of the 150th anniversary of the church.

The pulpit was also packed with musicians and singers.

Patrick Sturgis, who rose to fame as a young gospel musician during his time in the choir, introduced the more than 20 members who re-united for the first time in years.

“We are here to celebrate the legacy of this building we are in,” Sturgis said.

So many singers came for the reunion, they couldn’t all fit into the historic church’s choir stand.

“I’m excited that our choir stand is overflowing this afternoon,” said the Rev. Arnita Spencer, pastor of Bethel AME.

Selections during the performance included gospel songs from the 1970s to present day.

The church also paid tribute to Melissa Demby and Bertha Wade, who founded the choir and the church members who supported the choir’s trips across the South.

“They struck out on faith and the blessing of God,” said Brown, who is Wade’s daughter.

Other performances included the Bethel Inspiration Choir led by Rod Sturgis, the younger brother of Patrick Sturgis.

The Sturgis brothers are the grandsons of Bertha Wade.

Founded in 1864 Bethel was the first African Methodist Episcopal church in Mississippi.