Youth Department of UK’s oldest Black Pentecostal Church turns 70

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC), founded in 1948, is Britain’s oldest Black Pentecostal Church – and so is their youth department, which will be celebrating its 70th anniversary at their annual youth convention. COGIC International Youth President Superintendent Nathaniel Green will be a special guest speaker at the event taking place from 24-27 May at the COGIC headquarters in Luton, Bedfordshire.

The current COGIC UK Youth President, Birmingham-based minister Elder Simeon Whittingham, stated:

I am delighted to be hosting the 70th gathering of the COGIC UK Youth Convention. It will be a truly momentous occasion, as we reflect upon the rich heritage of this grand church and the achievements of our young people over seven decades of ministry in the UK. It is with a sense of honour that I reflect upon the great shoulders on which I stand, and the great anticipation and excitement I have for what the future holds for the COGIC UK Youth ministry.

Currently led by Bishop Dr Alvin Blake, who celebrates 25 years in the role this year, COGIC was founded in 1948 by Mother Mary E McLachlan. The church was officially incorporated into COGIC in 1952 by Bishop Charles H Mason when he visited the UK for the World Pentecostal Conference.

COGIC’s National Youth Department was launched in 1954, and the late Mother Jean Reynolds was its very first National Youth President.

Inspired by the Lord, Mother Reynolds started the renowned COGIC National Youth Choir, and worked tirelessly to create opportunities for the choir to sing at various events. At times it comprised of 300 members.

During the 80s and 90s the choir performed in Germany, Israel and Spain, and sang at numerous venues, including Luton Football Ground, Westminster Abbey, Westminister Central Hall, Southwark Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall, and the Barbican Centre. The choir sang on legendary TV show People Get Ready with Jesse Dixon and Shirley Caesar. The choir also recorded singles and albums. In 2007, the New Generation of Hope choir, NGOH, also released an album and had a choir called Youthin It Up!

Most notably, COGIC’s National Choir played a major role in introducing UK audiences to Black Pentecostal church worship and the power of gospel music. They were the first Black gospel choir to be featured on BBC TV’s Songs of Praise and were heavily featured in the historic Songs of Praise broadcast from Southwark Cathedral in 1984.

Following Mother Reynold’s tenure in the role, Pastor Stephen Nelson was appointed as the second National Youth President in 1998, a role he held until 2021 when Elder Simeon Whittingham took over.

There are several individuals who were raised in COGIC UK who have become people of renown both within and outside the denomination.

They include:

Rebecca (Becca) Folkes: A professional recording artist, born out of COGIC, and who is receiving international recognition for her talent and Spirit-led vocal and worship ministry.

Lavine Hudson: She was the first British-based female gospel singer to sign a recording contract with a major record label as a gospel artist. In 1988 she was signed by Virgin Records and released two critically acclaimed albums.

Nicky Brown: One of the first and most successful of the musicians, songwriters and producers to come out of the UK gospel scene. Nicky is also one of the first musicians to be officially appointed Ministers of Music at RUACH City Church. He has also shared the stage with many well-known artists.

Douglas Wallace: COGIC UK’s Minister of Music and a pioneer of the early UK Gospel sound. Douglas Wallace has worked with countless gospel artists past and present. He now serves as pastor of COGIC Wood Street.

Juliet Fletcher: A key pioneer of the UK gospel scene, she founded the Gospel Music Industry Alliance, the first commercial gospel promotions company and governing body, and introduced the concept of ticketed gospel concerts on the scene. She also served as a BBC producer, helping to increase its gospel music output and produced the Deniece Williams Show for many years.

Visit www.cogic.org.uk

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