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Kanye West Brings Sunday Service to DTLA’s Skid Row
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Staff Writer (Exclusive to the Sentinel)
Published January 2, 2020

Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, left, pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, and Kanye West at the Sunday Service on Dec. 29, at the Union Rescue Mission. (Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel)

Controversy, which has enveloped Kanye West for a long time, raised another level when he announced his total commitment to Christ and began his Sunday Service series one year ago.

But, like the saints of old, the celebrated rapper hasn’t let naysayers stop his praise. His faith was on full display on Dec. 29, as he marked the first anniversary of Sunday Service with a rousing worship experience on skid row in downtown L.A.

West, the Union Rescue Mission (URM) and Faithful Central Bible Church (FCBC) collaborated to present the service at URM, which is the site of FCBC’s regular DTLA Sunday worship and its various midweek activities that minister to the homeless. The Rev. Andy Bales, URM CEO, and Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, FCBC pastor, were also on hand.

Photos by Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel

Armed with his band, choir and guest preacher, Pastor Kerwin Lee, West joined with homeless parishioners to lift up the name of Jesus through prayer, music and the Word of God.

“We come to sing to God, we need the Spirit of God,” declared Jason White, who directed the choir in powerful renditions of gospel standards such as “Sing ‘Till the Power of the Lord Comes Down,” “Father, I Stretch My Hands to You” and “O Lord, How Excellent is Your Name,” all featured on West’s latest album, “Jesus Is Born” that dropped on Christmas Day.

After roaming through the crowd to shake hands and speak with some of the worshippers, West captivated the audience while rapping about life’s distractions over the choir’s chorus of “Hallelujah” and had people swaying as he delivered “Closed on Sunday” and “Follow God,” both from his “Jesus Is King” album. And to those who doubt his conversion, West admonished, “Don’t call me secular. I was just distracted for a while and God sent me here!”

Photos by Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel

With the congregation on a spiritual high from the music, Lee, pastor of Berean Christian Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia, ascended the stage to offer practical application of the Christian faith with the message, “The Type of Savior Everyone Needs.”

Lee cited John 21:3-6 as the scripture reference for his discourse, which describes how the disciples return to their old occupation of fishermen after witnessing the resurrected Christ.

Emphasizing that past behavior should be discarded once you encounter Jesus, Lee said, “You need a Savior that can locate you, even after you mess up. Whatever you try without God will not work.” Pointing to verse 6, he reminded the audience that Jesus “is a Savior who can motivate you” and “a Savior who can accommodate you.”

Photos by Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel

Ulmer followed Lee by issuing an invitation to Christian discipleship and after the service concluded, he expressed his appreciation that West reached out to URM and FCBC to hold the gathering. In addition, West donated new shoes and warm clothing to URM that will be distributed to homeless individuals.

“Kanye is spreading the Gospel. The hand of God is on Kanye and I say that without reservation. God will reach people through Kanye that I will never reach and that those of us who meet in four walls every Sunday will never reach and somebody needs to rejoice at that,” insisted Ulmer.

“His passion is not just for the concert. His passion is that people make connection and relationship with God. So when the service goes from city-to-city, he makes sure that he’s made connections with local clergy so when they go to the next city, ministries like ours will be here the next Sunday [for the people]. So, his heart is with the Gospel and the Kingdom and God is using him,” he noted.

Photos by Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel

“More importantly, what concerns me is by his own admission, he’s made this (Sunday Service) a rededication to the Lord and if we’re all born-again, we’re born-again to grow. And it concerns me that people would take shots at him – you know, ‘why didn’t he do this, why didn’t he do that?’ Well, he’s growing. Give Kanye a chance to grow like all of us had to grow,” Ulmer said.

Sharing a similar viewpoint, Bales said, “The Sunday Service was awesome. It was all that I hoped it would be and more. Lifting up the name of Jesus Christ is the real deal.

“Why would anybody pass judgment on somebody who is lifting up the name of Christ? He said that from now on, I am only going to declare the risen Christ. I have no regrets about hosting this service,” said Bales. “The controversy will only cause us to lift up the name of Jesus everywhere we go!”

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