Every Sunday at noon, four beautiful voices can be heard praising the Lord at Zion Covenant Fellowship Church.
These voices belong to the Putnam County Gospel Ensemble of Praise, comprised of four best friends with starkly contrasting personalities, but the same foundation: a lifelong love for God.
Pamela Young, Sherita Rayford, Minister Patricia Hudson and Lervernice Lawson are all founding members, and have known each other for well over a decade, but began singing together about 12 and a half years ago.
It started as fellowship and worship.
“God kind of just put it on my heart,” said Young. “I worked with other people who loved gospel music, and we just [got] together to fellowship, and that just came out of a love for worship. That’s all.”
The size of the group has fluctuated over the years and had as many as 12 members at one time, but after they began receiving more invitations to sing, many stepped down because they only wanted the fellowship, not necessarily the commitment of a formal group.
They perform at weddings, anniversaries, funerals, birthdays and other events, but about 90 percent of what they do is church-related, Young said.
“We’ve been blessed, people give us love offerings [and] we’ve been given gifts, but we don’t ask people for money,” Young said.
The group also attends many events simply to support those involved.
“We don’t even sing; we just go because we want to be a part of the good things that are going on in our community,” Young said.
Last month, the group opened for Karen Peck and New Rivers live at the Plaza Arts Center because they had been recommended by Georgia Smith.
It’s clear in the group’s interactions and dynamic that they’re all close, and each spoke highly of one another.
“They are amazing,” Young said. “They’re my best friends. If I’m going to go eat, it’s with them. If we’re going to church, [or] if I’m sick, this is who I’m going to call. … The bond that we’ve formed is amazing.”
Young said that worship is the most important part and that pleasing God in what they do is what they live for, but “to have the benefit of having them be friends and sisters is just amazing.”
They don’t bicker a lot, Young said, but they know one another’s shortcomings.
“I think that helps us out, because where I fall short, then they’re going to pick it up,” said Hudson.
Hudson is the quietest of the group besides Lawson, but she “keeps everybody in check,” said Young, although Young doesn’t recall her ever raising her voice.
As Young praised her friends, Hudson added that “Pam is awesome [too]. She loves God, and she loves us. I’m so glad we’re sisters.”
Rayford continued by saying Young is the one who dresses the group.
“She buys our clothes,” Hudson said, following Rayford’s addition to the conversation. “When we get ready to go out, she’s the designer. We don’t have to worry about what we’re going to wear because she’s always shopping.”
“Lervernice, I always say, is the quietest one but the loudest one,” Young said. “She doesn’t say a whole lot … but boy when she blows a fuse she’s like ‘I’m ready to go!’”
Each member has obligations other than the ensemble, and sometimes all four can’t be at an event, but at least one of them will always go whether it’s to sing or show support.
“We just do what we do because we love God,” Young said. “We love to fellowship. We are really big helpers of one another, so we don’t just do things for the ensemble. Like I said, sometimes we go support other choirs and other groups, and they didn’t even invite us to come sing.
“We just go and we clap, and we say ‘hey,’ and we give offerings, and we’re a blessing to them. … [and] sometimes all of us can’t go, that happens a lot. Sometimes it’s two of us, sometimes one. Oftentimes at least three … but we’re committed to the cause, so we go if we have to go by ourselves. It works out. We just do it because we love God; that’s why we do it.”