STANLEY – Five years ago Carroll Cooke started Lowesville Gospel Concerts at Living Word Ministries. And though the bi-weekly concerts are held at the church, they’re meant to bring people together from all corners of the greater Charlotte and Lake Norman areas.
Denver Citizen: Tell us about how the series got started.
Carroll Cooke: The building that we’re in, I used to sell auto parts out of it with some of my family members. They all got sick and passed away. I was 67 at the time, and I told my pastor I was getting out that business. He said, “I would like to have that building,” and in six months we started building the stage and having church in there. Around that time it hit me, “We need to have gospel concerts.” We started in January 2013 and have been doing it twice a month ever since.
DC: What are the concerts like?
CC: We bring in people from all over the county – I’ve already got a group out of California booked for next year. This is a nonprofit, community effort all the way. We started out with 67 people, and this year we’ve averaged around 166 – a few weeks ago only three attendees were from our church. People from Huntersville and Cornelius, Statesville, Mooresville and Concord, Hickory and Shelby, and the Denver and Mountain Island area is huge.
We try to do one night of Southern gospel groups and one of bluegrass each month. The one coming up with Sherry Anne and Kingsway Quartet is Southern gospel. And with that style of music, most of the time you’ll have someone singing with soundtracks, sometimes a piano player or a bass – and with bluegrass just about all of them play an instrument. It’s Christ-centered, but we do ask the groups to sing so there’s not a whole lot of talking going on. They might give a little testimony occasionally, but it’s mostly music. It’s a real good place, especially for seniors, to come for a couple of hours Saturday evening.
DC: What do you think these concerts mean for the community?
CC: Well I have people – who come all the time – a lot of them tell me it’s their life. One guy recently told me his wife had Alzheimer’s and they hadn’t missed a concert in six months. She recently passed away, so I visited him, and he said, “I want to tell you Mr. Cooke, it’s those concerts that’s meant a lot the last six months – it’s the only place I could get her to go to leave the house.” I hear those stories all the time. Another guy who had been coming for seven or eight weeks missed a couple times in a row, and I was going to call him, but he called me. He had fallen, was in rehabilitation and his doctor told him he needed to stay several weeks longer, but he said he would only stay a couple because he was not missing another concert.
DC: How does that fit into your church’s mission?
CC: We wanted it to be a community effort; we didn’t want it to be just our church. I pass out cards for people to fill out at every concert, and there’s a line where you can put the name of your church. We had 67 different churches represented at the last concert. That’s really what it was designed to do – we just happen to have it there at the church.