(pictured above: Shirley Caesar performs at United Metropolitan.)
First Lady of Gospel Shirley Caesar brought down the house on May 16 with her stirring performance at United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church.
Caesar regaled a crowd of more than 700 during the more than two hour-long concert, which was offered to the local community free of charge by Forsyth Jail and Prison Ministries. During the concert, a love offering was collected in support of the Ministry, which has a 35-plus year history of providing Christian-focused programming and support to inmates in Forsyth County and their families.
A veteran performer and member of the North Carolina Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Caesar cut her teeth as a solo gospel performer in 1966 and has been lighting up stages the world over with her message of hope and salvation ever since. Known for hits like “Hold My Mule” and “He’s Working it Out for You,” the Shaw University alumna and Durham native has secured her place in gospel music history with a host of accolades, including 11 Grammys, 13 Stellar and 18 Dove awards.
Despite her legendary status, Caesar doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight. During her performance, she offered the microphone to dozens of attendees, inviting them to sing along with her. Members of FJPM’s own Cherry Street Ensemble, a choir made up of current and former Forsyth Correctional Center inmates, also shared the stage with Caesar.
When the time came to take the offering, Caesar led the charge to support FJPM by presenting a personal check to Senior Chaplain Rodney Stilwell. Caesar told the audience – which included more than 50 inmates who watched via live web cast from the Forsyth County Correctional Center – that she has a personal connection to the cause. Her nephew is currently serving time in prison and spreading the gospel during his detention, Caesar said.
“Every time our sons and our daughters do time, we are doing time right along with them,” Caesar said. “I have a nephew, and he will never come back home unless God says so, but he’s preaching the gospel right now, in prison.”
Chaplain Stilwell expressed his gratitude, both to Caesar for her charity and to the Winston-Salem community, which so wholeheartedly supported the concert and the Ministry with their gifts and time.
“Your presence here tonight is important because it sends a message to the inmates in our three facilities in Winston Salem that the grace of God can transform them from crime to Christ,” he said. “That the same grace of God calls us in the community to open doors of fellowship, forgiveness, employment for them after release.”
To learn more about Forsyth Jail and Prison Ministries’ work with inmates and families, call 336-759-0063 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.