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Recently, Detroit Gospel.com had the privilege of speaking with the publisher of Gospel Today magazine, Teresa Hairston, regarding her latest praise and worship CD release.  New staffer, June Green, was given the honorable task of interviewing Ms. Hairston.  Let’s listen in on the conversation:

DG:   Good afternoon, Ms. Teresa Hairston.  How are you?

TH:   Very good! How are you?

DG:   I’m fine, God bless you!  On behalf of Detroit Gospel.com, I’m honored to speak with you regarding some exciting news you have to share with us.  First, let me say congratulations to you and your staff for bringing to us, and the Christian community, 15 years of dedicated service with ‘America’s leading Christian lifestyle magazine’, Gospel Today.

TH:   Thank you very much.

DG:   You’ve teamed with one of gospel music’s leading recording labels, Verity Records, for an exciting purpose.  Tell us about it.

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TH:   We came together to celebrate what has been a new emergence in the genre of praise and worship music.  We believe this is really the music of tomorrow, and it also connects us to the music of yesterday.  Two years ago, Max Siegel, the president of Verity Records, came and approached me with an idea to do something together, and I thought that this was the perfect combination.  I’d say it’s been a great liaison.

DG:   The market is proliferated with praise and worship music, especially now that it seems to be trendy and marketable.  What inspired you to jump into this market?

TH:   Well, I came from a music background, and tried to take the idea of doing something that would fuse Gospel Today with Gospel Today Presents. Then too, I wanted to be back in this industry that I really know and love.  It was a good opportunity for us to capitalize on expanding both areas.

DG:   The live recording is the culmination of a weeklong series of events and workshops, known as the Gospel Heritage Conference, correct?

TH:   It’s the Gospel Heritage Praise and Worship Conference.  It’s a 3-day conference.  We’ve had it in Atlanta for the last 4 years, with success.  The recording is held on the second night of the conference.

DG:   What was your purpose in starting a praise and worship conference, and for those who weren’t able to attend this year (the conference was held in February, at Bishop Eddie L. Long’s church, New Birth Cathedral), what would you say were some of the highlights?

TH:   Well, I think people in all walks of life, especially now after 9/11, and I’m including my life, are really trying to do what they need to do, to make sure that their time is not spent in vain.  People are looking to connect with what’s important now, as opposed to doing things that are of no importance.  As I see the conference pour into people, it’s about connecting with God so you can know what your purpose is, how to pray, how to worship, how to take care of business in a way that honors God.  We’re not just about music in this conference.  It’s holistic.  It’s a lifestyle.  Last year’s theme was “Making Worship a Lifestyle”.  So we’re talking about more than just music.  We had classes on finances, how to start a business, how to deal with relationships.  We had one seminar that talked about women, and how to deal with other women, especially if you’re a strong woman and you’re a leader.

We talked about how to get along in the workplace.  There were classes on how to write books.  Everybody wants to tell their story.  Well, how do you get it published?  So, we had all these types of classes.  It was really an amazing conference.  The difference in our conference is that we not only have people who know, but people who are out there doing it and making a difference.

DG:   O.K., so it’s not so much about coming to see your favorite gospel artist, as it is about learning how to walk the talk.

TH:   Yes!  It’s a combination of both worlds because we celebrate, we sing, we praise, but then you get to hear these artists stand up and talk about life.  It’s not the norm, it’s very unique.  So, that’s the thing.  You know, we hear artists sing, and it’s something when you can listen and find out the reason why they sing.  You hear about things that are going on in their lives.

DG:   Would you say your goals for this year’s conference were met?

TH:   Very much so! At the end of the conference, I was thinking, “OK, now I can die and go to heaven!”  It was an awesome thing to see people like Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams minister, and then, Bishop T.D. Jakes, because he is just on a ….

DG:   ….he’s on another level!

TH:   …Yes!  I think he’s in another dimension!  And we brought in Martha Munizzi, who sang on a recording.  So we’re finding that all the things we’re doing takes us to another level.  It’s beyond gospel, it’s beyond music.  It is true ministry.

DG:   What type of feedback are you getting for the new release, Gospel Today presents: Praise and Worship, Volume 2, and where can we get it?

TH:   The CD is available on Verity records, and wherever Verity records are sold, as well as on our website, www.GospelToday.com .  The feedback, especially from the single, “Worship Experience” with Elder William Murphy,  has been great! This song is like a follow-up to his “Praise Is What I Do” song.  It’s a very worshipful song.  The first one was also, and praise-oriented, so it’s like a natural progression.

DG:   With so much music that’s out, why should someone buy this particular CD?

TH:   The reason someone would want to buy this CD is because they really want a worship experience, and we’re not talking about just another record!  This one has all the top artists like Marvin Sapp, Vickie Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Fred Hammond, William Murphy.  It is just an awesome project, and the songs are truly an experience!

DG:   What can we expect for next year’s conference and praise and worship project?

TH:   The next praise and worship project has already been recorded.  It was recorded at the conference last month.  Donald Lawrence produced it, and I tell you, it’s just amazingly phenomenal!  Words cannot express.  I definitely think three’s the charm!  Get this one and live with it, but the next one, carve out a space for that one!

And as for next year’s conference, I really want us to continue to grow and expand past the boundaries that so many conferences have set.  Once you’ve kind of defined your borders you stay there.  I think we’ll continue to grow, to evolve.  One thing we’re going to do is look into generational wealth and how to establish it in our culture, our society, in our homes.  That’s what God is calling for us to do.  In the first chapter of Joshua, it talks about the commission of God to the Israelites to go in and possess the land, that everywhere their foot would trod, the land would be theirs.  It’s time for God’s people to possess the land, and the only way we can do that is to know Him and walk according to His Word, and to have the courage to step out on faith and believe that His Word is power in us and life in us.

So once we come to the knowledge of who we are and whose we are, then we begin to walk and talk and move and think in a different way.  We begin to realize we are the head and not the tail.  We are the lenders and not the borrowers.  We are the people who are supposed to be at the forefront of this whole thing.  And once the church really locks into that…I think that’s what we’re waiting for now.

DG:   Ms. Hairston, you’ve proven that a Christian oriented business, dedicated to serving God, His people and the community can be viable and marketable.  What advice can you share with www.DetroitGospel.com , a newly launched website that’s designed to provide coverage of Metro Detroit’s gospel music and entertainment scene?

TH:   I believe Detroit  Gospel.com is a very important outlet and medium for information and news which I know will grow to be the top provider of news and updates for the entire Detroit metroplex!  I hope you will continue to dig deeper than the surface, to unlock those truths and things that will empower and inform people, because that’s what we need.  We also need people to turn around and support one another like you’re doing.  So, you’re already sowing into your ministry!

DG:   On behalf of Mary and Keith Crosby, the website designers and owners of  www.DetroitGospel.com, I want to say thank you.  It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Ms. Teresa Hairston.  May God continue to bless you, your family and staff at Gospel Today.

TH:   Thank you very much.