“Pastor Charles Jenkins Presents Fellowship Chicago Live: The Best of Both Worlds” is the new album due to be released in June of 2012. “Awesome” is the first single, it is available on for download on iTunes and is quickly gaining great success on radio. I blogged about this song a month ago, and you can listen to the song here. There’s still time to catch this ride before The Ship (as the church is affectionately called by its parishioners) takes off once again!
After being handed the reigns to one of gospels favorite congregations, Pastor Charles Jenkins is proud to present Fellowship Chicago Live, in their return to gospel music, since Reverend Clay Evans last recorded with Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. GRAMMY® award winner, Pastor Charles Jenkins took time out of his busy schedule to talk with me about returning to gospel music with Fellowship, the new album, the incredible response to their lead single “Awesome” and the importance of keeping the legacy of Fellowship alive while moving forward.
ICG: What made you decide to get back into music, create a label and put Fellowship Chicago back out there?
PCJ: Music has always been in my DNA. When I took over Fellowship in Dec. of 2000, I wanted to focus in on transitioning the church, and really just zero in on ensuring its relevance in the new millennium. When I got here, I was 24 years old; 75-80% of the church congregation was over 75 yrs old, my predecessor Rev. Clay Evans had just retired at 75, so I wanted to make sure to maintain the long-timers while welcoming a new generation into the church. After I felt like the church was on solid footing for where we needed to be in culture, I wanted to be led by the Holy Spirit about the timing to reintroduce Fellowship into gospel music and when that time came we jumped in with both feet and here we are!
ICG: Being a GRAMMY® award winning songwriter and having experience with the professional music industry, did you encounter any challenges about maintaining the integrity/legacy of Fellowship’s past musical history, with Rev. Clay Evans, while moving forward with this new project?
PCJ: Well, no…Rev. Evans is a genius and one of the things that he ingrained in me is that “whatever you do, you want to do it well.” I think for us, we didn’t want to reintroduce a new generation of Fellowship gospel music unless we knew we could do it well and do a good job. As the Psalmist says whatever you do, do it skillfully. And so, I know he’s (Rev. Evans) an icon and legend and with no pressure to try to emulate or in any way imitate or measure up to him, so to speak, with great reverence, honor and respect we wanted to make sure that A: We glorified God and B: We were able to create music that people were able to sing and worship God with, and hope that, as my spirit father, Rev. Clay Evans would be proud.
ICG: There is a wide range of styles/sounds on the album (traditional gospel, contemporary praise and worship, R&B, Rock and Soul), who were your musical influences that helped to create this project?
PCJ: That’s a good question! I think…well it’s called “The Best of Both Worlds” and so our main mission and focus was to say to the body we can all sing to God together, old school, new school, long-timers and new comers; so of course Fellowship’s past music was an influence, The Mississippi Mass Choir, but also people like, Israel Houghton, Hillsong and Hezekiah Walker, and then for me, Kirk Franklin were all people who were in my head and mind as I was thinking about what we were doing.
ICG: With this project, you were very hands-on, writing and producing; are there any other producers/writers who worked on the album as well?
PCJ: Rick Robinson was our lead producer; he has an amazing gift and talent. Kevin Vasser, who is the Director of Worship and Arts here at Fellowship and Anita Wilson, who is a part of the team, were also very engaged and involved, we like to say “team work makes the dream work”, but you were right, I had both of my hands on it. From the idea at the beginning, to the very end, because as you said, this is the first one (musical project), and not only the first one, it is a continuation of Fellowship’s legacy. So of course as the Pastor I felt a sense of responsibility to make sure that we would honor. respect and maintain the integrity of the legacy while we wanted to share good music.
ICG: The lead single is “Awesome” and is growing and gaining success with its radio release, what is your response to how people are receiving the song?
PCJ: You know we’ve been overwhelmed; it’s very humbling to know that God can use you to create something that will bless masses. I like to say ‘it’s one thing to be able to cook for your house, but when you can cook for everybody…” it’s just very gratifying! The response has been out of control, we are hearing that people are singing it in Africa, England, the Islands, Switzerland and Sweden. We are just hit from every direction, where people are singing it all around the world. It’s becoming an anthem for the body of Christ, to add to so many other anthems that people are singing. So we are excited to create something that people can grab hold to and celebrate Jesus with.
ICG: What is your favorite song from the album?
PCJ: Can I say “Awesome” *laughs* The interesting thing about it is, it’s like I didn’t have anything to do with it. I find myself singing it in my own devotional time and throughout the day! Even singing it acapella, it’s like my own little devotional song!
ICG: What are your goals for the album? What do you want the listener to come away with after listening to it?
PCJ: Well the goal for me, is to really share our music internationally. We want to get people singing to God. I think the choir, traditionally, people sit back and watch the choir and there are so many great choirs that share great music, but with songs like “Awesome”, “Worthy Is Your Name”, “Praise On My Mind” and “Joy Will”, these songs are going to make you sing. We want you to move from a spectator position to a participator position and sing to God. The other side is to say to the body of Christ, old and young, we are all one. We can all sing to God together and we can all grab some of this worship music that can redeem anyone, new school to our older crowd, but then we can say to the younger crowd, “hey the old style, is still in style” and it’s always a good time to clap your hands and tap your feet, and you can do both!
ICG: After the album release (June 2012) what is next for you and Fellowship Chicago? Tours or concerts?
PCJ: We are looking at tours and concerts and we want to get on the road and share Gods love and the gospel through music, this summer. We are looking forward to meeting worshippers all over the country. So want to hit the road this summer.
ICG: Any last thoughts or remarks for your fans?
PCJ: THE SHIP IS BACK!! The Ship is back! God has blessed us with the capacity to make music that everybody can sing; we want it to be easy and singable. “Awesome” is on iTunes now, and the album will be in stores everywhere in June 2012.
Well there you have it folks! Make sure to support this amazing ministry! Thank you to Pastor Charles Jenkins, it was my pleasure to talk with you! Folks remember to Download “Awesome” from iTunes and for all things Fellowship Chicago make sure to stop by their Official Website! #SupportKingdomMusic