On April 28, 2017, Biola University Student Programming and Activities (SPA) hosted Gospel Fest, an annual worship celebration that highlights the diversity within gospel music. Hosted by students Joel Smith, a senior psychology major, and Katy Gutierrez, a senior sociology major, Gospel Fest showcased the talents of Gospel artists Contagious Praise, K-Ross and Da Band, and Biola’s Gospel Choir.

“When I was choosing the artists I spoke with Nena, the gospel choir director, and she led me to some amazing people",” said Gutierrez. “I wanted to make sure these artists would be able to bring gospel music to life for people who were not familiar.”

Kristopher Ross, the leader of K-Ross and Da Band, ushered the attendees into a time of worship with his original music which touched on topics such as pride and humility, being an outcast, and staying strong in the face of adversity.

“You can not control how you feel it”, said Ross about Gospel music. “You just feel it … And it has been an essential part in maintaining my walk with God.”

As an event produced in collaboration with SEID, the Office of Multi-Ethnic Outreach and SPA, its aim was to engage prospective students as well as highlight current undergraduate students. One way this was accomplished was through highlighting an important aspect of Gospel music —  praise dancing. Praise dancing is an expressive artform, commonly incorporated in most African-American churches which mirrors the lyrics of Gospel as a powerful and emotional form of expression.

Raquel Moniquee Hamm, a current undergraduate Christian Ministries major, danced to “Free” by Kierra Sheard, a powerful song about God’s ability to deliver us from our hardships. Hamm’s performance brought the audience to their feet.

“My favorite thing about praise dancing is expressing my emotions and feelings as an act of worship to God through any movement in my body,” said Hamm.

A small reception took place at the conclusion of the event to allow students and the artists to meet each other and enjoy dessert from Porto’s Bakery & Cafe.

Written by Lauren Overshoun-Hall, iBiola Reporter. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, manager of media relations, at (562) 777-4061 or jenna.loumagne@biola.edu.