House of Peace Worship Church International to hold leadership conference in September

Published 4:00 am Sunday, August 27, 2023

Pastors, ministers and residents from the surrounding area will meet at House of Peace Worship Church International on Sept. 15 and 16 for the church’s eighth annual Pastors, Ministers & Leadership Conference.

“We’ll have workshops, we’ll have vendors there,” House of Peace pastor the Rev. Linda Sweezer-Rowster said. “We have local people who will also be doing workshops. It’s in conjunction with the City of Vicksburg.”

She said Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace and Vicksburg Police Chief Penny Jones will present programs and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. will open the conference.

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“We have a great lineup of people who will be from the community and from other parts of Mississippi who will be coming in and doing workshops,” Sweezer-Rowster said.

One of the individuals coming is gospel performer Kelontae Gavin.

“I call him an awesome praise and worship leader,” Sweezer-Rowster said. “It was hard to get him to us, but he’s coming. We are really excited about that. It worked out for him to open the conference up on Friday.”

Gavin, 23, went viral as the “Cafeteria Singer” with celebrities like Steve Harvey and Yolanda Adams sharing his video. He is a Billboard-charting artist and a Stellar and Dove Award nominee.

His recorded first single, “Higher,” in 2017. The song was written by his mother Priscilla Smalls, produced by Myron Butler and reached the Top 20 on Billboard Gospel Indicator.

The keynote speaker for the conference is Dr. Terry Weems from Columbia.

“He’s been a part of this conference all of the years that I’ve had it as a workshop speaker,” Sweezer-Rowster said. “He’s an incredible, incredible visionary and knows a lot about a lot of things so we got him in to be our keynote speaker.”

A praise and worship team will perform on Saturday.

Besides the workshops and programs, the conference will include vendors located in a separate area of the church campus.

“We’ll have vendors who are coming from Florida and other places,” Sweezer-Rowster said. “We’ll have vendors from everywhere that will be there at the conference; people who bring devotionals and books and clothing and jewelry.”

She said the vendors will also include teenagers who will offer their wares.

“This is a leadership conference and so what better way to show leadership than to have kids looking and adults seeing people who have their own business and then they’re bringing information about their business?” she said, adding vendors will also be selling food to the people attending the conference. “So on Friday people won’t have to get out in the heat.”

Besides vendors, social and community service agencies will have booths offering information about their services.

Sweezer-Rowster said the idea for the conference “was the inclination of the Holy Spirit. I started thinking about how pastors and ministers and leaders should come together.

“We don’t need to just do church events. We need to have community-wide events,” she added. “I started seeing the vision of adding businesses and people who had businesses and social service and community agencies.”

The initial plan included bringing people together and then expanding the conference to include people from other states and encouraging the leaders in the communities and churches.

“There are statistics that show that there are a number of pastors who quit every year,” Sweezer-Rowster said. “Many pastors leave the pulpit because the work is so hard.”

She said pastors need the support of their congregations “from people who know how to help you; who know how to come in and hold up what we call hold up the pastor’s arms like they did with Moses in the scripture.”

The conference, she said, is open to anyone.

“It’s open to people who want to be leaders; people who want to do more, so a lot of people from the churches bring their members and they get a chance to have those members to glean from the atmosphere — the information about, you know, what can I do to help my pastor stay encouraged?” Sweezer-Rowster said. “What can I do to become a leader and to give myself more into the service of the kingdom? So you got both of those, not just the pastors and the ministers, but also for people who are leaders.

“We are going to train people through the workshops; we’ll be doing training to encourage people and say, this (leadership) is important and this is good and you know, get involved and stay involved.”

Sweezer-Rowster said she schedules the conference in September each year, adding, “We try to have the conference so that some of the people look forward to having the opportunity to come and stay in the hotels. We do patronize the hotels here and people are eating in restaurants. It (the conference) is a great service to this city about what’s going on. And I’m grateful for that.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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