Students shine in open mic for Praise and Worship Night

Seniors Kimberleigh Crump, left, A’lexus Newkirk and Jamie McCreary perform at the Praise and Worship Night in the Community Center on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2017.//Photo by Ezra Weiss/The Guilfordian

The Community Center was filled with music, laughter and chatter. Lights were dim as students played piano and drums.

About 20 students gathered for the open mic Praise and Worship Night on Thursday, Jan. 11. Hosted by the Friends Center, the Multicultural Education Department, the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement and the Office of Diversity, Education and Inclusion, the event was open to people of all faiths, who were invited to share music, thoughts and their experiences with faith.

Sophomore Troy Taylor and first-year Gregory Stockton played piano and drums during the event.

Stockton found the event appealing because of its community aspect.

“I wanted to perform at this event because I love playing music for people,” said Stockton in an email interview. “Letting people hear what talents I have and just to be around a lot of people playing music is amazing.”

Tim Johnson, interim director for the OSLE, opened the event, inviting people to come up to the front to discuss their experiences with faith or perform.

“This is a way for you to talk about whatever faith and community mean to you,” Johnson said. “This is a great time for reflection.”

Students sang in trios and duets, encouraging each other to perform. They sang a range of gospel songs, such as “How Great is Our God,” and performed slam poetry. Stockton and Taylor played their drums in the background while the groups sang and spoke.

Zana Hicks, interim assistant director of OSLE, spoke about stress and encouraged students to share their experiences and create a calm space.

“It’s really good to see these students coming out of their shell,” said Hicks. “I see these students thrive in the classroom academically, but it’s really nice to see them thrive creatively.”

Despite the fluctuations of the crowd size throughout the evening, many students actively participated in the event. During some songs, students in the crowd joined in, humming or singing along. While open to people of all faiths, the performances were primarily based in Christianity and the songs were familiar to those who grew up in the church.

The group was engaged in the unique setting of an informal open mic worship night.

“I find a lot of value in this event,” said Stockton in an email interview. “I would never take anything like this for granted.”

By the end of the two-hour event, only a handful of people remained, taking turns singing and speaking.

“It felt really like a close family or something, like we were all really in this moment together,” said Hicks. 

Johnson said the OSLE and other organizations have plans to hold a few Praise and Worship Night events throughout the semester.

“We did something similar to this in the fall, so we wanted to bring it back,” said Johnson. “We’ll probably continue to do these as the semester goes on.”