Music for the soul: Gospel conference kicks off Thursday

If you go:

17th Annual Gospel Heritage Praise & Worship Conference

Where: Changing A Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church, 3350 Greenbriar Parkway

Cost: The conference is free, however there is a $50 charge for the leadership breakfast, which will be held at the Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel.

For a schedule and additional information, go to

Atlanta has been known as a center for hip hop music.

Lately, though, another more soul-stirring genre is gaining a greater hold - gospel.

Some of the nation’s top gospel performers will gather in Atlanta Thursday through part of Saturday for the 17th annual Gospel Heritage Praise & Worship Conference, which will be held at Changing a Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church, 3350 Greenbriar Parkway S.W.

Among the goals, said Teresa Hairston, founder of the Gospel Heritage Foundation, is to educate people about the heritage and legacy of gospel. “It’s not just in the church,” she said. “It’s evolved into every walk of life.”

Gospel music and spirituals, for instance, were incorporated in the civil rights movement, she said.

Among those scheduled to attend are Bishop Hezekiah Walker, VaShawn Mitchell, Donald Lawrence and Wess Morgan. Edwin Hawkins will receive the Living Legend Award. Others receiving awards include Bishop Liston Page Sr. , the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jasper Williams Sr.

The conference, which is free except for a gospel breakfast, returns to Atlanta after five years.

Hairston said Atlanta has become more of a gospel music town. A number of gospel and Christian artists including Mitchell and Lecrae now call the metro area home. Lecrae recently won a Grammy for his album “Gravity.”

Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr. , senior pastor of Changing A Generation and a singer in his own right, said the conference will help take praise and worship to a new level.

“It’s really not just singing a song, but really showing people how to get into the very presence of God,” he said.

The conference will include performances, an artist boot camp and workshops for pastors and church praise and worship ministries. The 2013 Leadership Breakfast will be held at the Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, 1 Hartsfield Center Parkway. The speaker is Bishop Iona Locke of Detroit, Mich . Tickets are $50.

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