Despite bronchial asthma, 17-year-old Vernard Johnson played his saxophone in clubs in his hometown, Kansas City, but he wanted to be healed. He prayed that Jesus would touch his lungs.
A few days later he was playing Amazing Grace at home, he said. "When I finished, I took one deep breath, and everything was gone, gone, gone out of my lungs! Jesus touched me, and now I blow for him!"
Dr. Johnson, known as the world's greatest gospel saxophonist, has recorded 14 albums and played for more than 200 million in concerts all over the world. He will lead a revival at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 710 East Cedar St., starting at 6 p.m. Sunday. The revival will continue Monday and Tuesday at 6:50 p.m.
The musician, the first black awarded a doctorate of musical arts in church music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, has won rave reviews at jazz festivals in New Orleans, Berlin and Montreal.
Raising a church
Carpenters for Christ are helping New Life Baptist Church raise a shell for a 300-seat sanctuary on its 5-plus acres at 3840 Mike Padgett Highway this weekend.
Crews from the Birmingham, Ala., area started framing the 6,000-square-foot building Thursday. They expect to raise the roof and steeple today and end in time for the 11 a.m. service Sunday. Workers will leave after dinner-on-the-grounds Sunday.
The finishing work -- such as dry-walling, carpeting and hanging light fixtures -- will be done on weekends in June, said the Rev. Frank Thigpen, pastor of the 240-member congregation. The job should be completed by July.
The children's musical Dr. Newheart's Neck-Up Check-Up will be on stage at The Hill Baptist Church West, 3130 Skinner Mill Road, at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Drs. Hearasaya, Eisenmind, Hedda T'skya and Betty Bittersweet will join Dr. Newheart in a spiritual check-up.
The play, written by award-winning composer Kathie Hill, will be performed by the children's choirs.
The Augusta Area Ministerial Council, a coalition of about 25 churches, passed its one-year mark in May.
The partnership, committed to meeting the needs of the inner city, was a major supporter of a holiday toy and food drive as well as Augusta's Stand Down for the Homeless in March.
The churches identified and recruited many of the nearly 700 volunteers, including doctors, dentists and nurses, said Sharon Caldwell, executive director of the Augusta Task Force for the Homeless.
Nearly 1,100 men, women and children received medical attention and other services during the Stand Down.
Catholics account for 23 percent of the U.S. population, according to the 1999 edition of the Official Catholic Directory.
Current membership is 62,018,436, an increase of 454,667, or less than 1 percent over 1998. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's second-largest religious body, recently announced that membership had declined 1 percent to 14.7 million, the first drop in 72 years.
-- From Staff and Wire Reports