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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Gospel community shocked by tragedies

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National and local supporters of Rev. Timothy Wright are in shock and prayer this week following news that the gospel singer was involved in a tragic car crash.

Last Friday Wright, known by many as “The Godfather of Gospel” was critically injured after a car driven on the wrong side of the highway by a suspected drunk driver crashed into his vehicle.

The accident occurred on I-80 in Pennsylvania as Wright, 61, his wife Betty and their 14-year-old grandson D.J. were returning home following the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Convention in Detroit.

Wright was taken in critical condition to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa. According to Grace Tabernacle Christian Center, the Brooklyn, N.Y., church led by Wright, he is now stable and responding positively to treatment.

However Betty Wright, 58, who served as co-pastor with her husband and co-wrote several of his songs, was killed in the crash. D.J. Wright died at the hospital a day later.

The suspected drunk driver, 44-year-old John Pick of Lewisburg, Pa., also died in the crash. A passenger riding in a third car involved in the crash was also injured.

Calls nationwide were placed to Wright’s church as his members held a prayer vigil for the Wright family. They refused to fall into despair by singing joyful gospel tunes and thanking God for Wright’s ministry while praying for his recovery.

“We honor the Lord for his goodness and his kindness,” said Rev. Frank Williams, an associate at Grace Tabernacle Christian Center. “We say, in spite of everything that God is still good. Rev. Wright shall live. He has impacted too many people.”

According to sources close to Wright, speaking on condition of anonymity, the minister had to be revived at least twice following the accident and his wife’s memorial service will be delayed until he is able to physically handle the shock of her death.

On Monday his son David reported that he had suffered a bruised lung, broken collarbone and injuries to his left leg, right ankle, jaw and ribs.

The Grammy-nominated Wright, who has been writing songs and playing the piano since age 12, has released more than 12 albums with the New York Fellowship Mass Choir, which he formed in 1976. He is best known for classics such as “Who’s On the Lord’s Side” “Do You Know the Light” and “Troubles Don’t Last Always.”

His most recent hit, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” became an instant favorite on gospel stations when it was released last year.

Wright has a full list of appearances scheduled throughout the year, including an October performance during the 20th pastoral anniversary celebration of Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson, senior pastor of Eastern Star Church.

“He is a man of God who truly loves the Lord, and his music reflects that,” said Sherri Garrison, minister of music at Eastern Star Church.

Garrison had an opportunity to work with Wright during last year’s Praise in the Parking Lot, a gospel event associated with Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration. She organized a choir to join Wright during his appearance.

“He’s a very easygoing person and very easy to follow because he knows exactly what he wants,” said Garrison. “You don’t have to wonder where he’s going with a song. You know when he gets up front he’s going to have a good time and sing with the anointing.”

National gospel recording artist Rodnie Bryant, an Indianapolis native, also praised Wright as someone who is a joy to serve with in music ministry.

“He’s a very nice and generous man who is always ready to create a special song,” said Bryant, who (along with his Christian Communiy Mass Choir) appeared with Wright during a tour of the East Coast between 1997 and 2000.

Bryant added that artists in both the contemporary and traditional markets of gospel music owe much of their inspiration to Wright.

“He has always given us good songs that choirs all across the country can sing on Sunday morning,” said Bryant. “That’s an amazing contribution not everyone can claim.”

News of Wright’s accident came during a hard week for the gospel music industry, which is also reeling from the sudden death of Bishop Charles Craig, a vice chairman of the board of directors for the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA), known as the world’s largest gospel music organization. Craig, of the popular gospel group the Craig Brothers, was known as a loving mentor and supporter for many members of the organization, which claims most of the gospel genre’s singers, musicians and songwriters.

Craig drove himself to a Detroit hospital after suffering a massive heart attack last week, but died soon after.

Al “The Bishop” Hobbs, an Indianapolis native who also serves as a vice chairman of the GMWA, praised Craig as an “awe inspiring” artist.

“He was short in physical stature, a little over five feet,” said Hobbs. “But he was ten feet tall in a musical sense. He was a wonderful addition to the ministry of Christ.”

Hobbs said both tragedies were an “absolute shock” to the gospel community, but he is assured that God will use them for the greater good.

“Romans:8:28 says ‘we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good,’” noted Hobbs. “This makes you really treasure every second with your loved ones because you never know when tragedy is around the corner, or when God will call your loved one home. If you love someone, let them know today. If you have enimity with someone resolve it today because life is just too short.”

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