“Dr. Hayes didn’t want any sadness. We’re going to have a home going party tonight!” declared Deacon Dennis Cole, who with Pastor DeAndre Patterson hosted a musical tribute last night to the late Dr. Charles G. Hayes, Founder and Pastor of Chicago’s Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer.
Dr. Hayes died February 12 at the age of 76. He founded Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer in Chicago as Tabernacle Church of Prayer in 1959 (known also as Universal Kingdom of Christ) and has been its pastor ever since. His church choir, affectionately known as the Warriors, has recorded more than 30 albums, had several gospel hits—“Jesus Can Work It Out” is the best known—and has sung all over the world.
Bishop Larry Darnell Trotter’s Sweet Holy Spirit Church on Chicago’s Southeast Side was the setting for the tribute, which was a who’s who of local gospel music, church ministry, and civic leadership. Among the musical guests paying tribute to Dr. Hayes, who lie in state during the program, were Chicago Mass Choir featuring Lemmie Battles, the Barrett Sisters, Vernon Oliver Price and Loretta Oliver, Pastor Mitty Collier, Rev. Walter Butts, Dexter Walker & Zion Movement, Ray Allen Berryhill and Evangel Celebration Choir, and former Caravan Delores Washington.
All artists sang traditional songs out of respect for Dr. Hayes and his lifelong commitment to old time gospel music. Interestingly, many of the songs were Rev. James Cleveland compositions and arrangements.
The Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Warriors opened the program, marching into the Sweet Holy Spirit sanctuary dressed in white and delivering songs in their trademark spirited style while several audience members kept time on tambourines and at least one washboard.
Congressman Bobby Rush and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel were among the dignitaries who paid their respects. Dr. Albert Jamison, chairman of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, flew in from Brooklyn to be present. Churches were ably represented by the likes of Bishop Otto T. Houston III of First Church of Deliverance and Rev. James Meeks of Salem Baptist Church. Rev. Derail Smith, Cosmopolitan’s assistant pastor, received hugs and greetings from many.
Others on the dais included gospel announcer Pam Morris, gospel historian Nash Shaffer, Chicago Area Gospel Announcers Guild prexy Yvonne Wesley-Seabrooks, Inspiration 1390 PD and host Sonya Blakey, and former Cosmopolitan music minister and Mahalia Jackson accompanist Dr. Charles Clency.
Present were Rev. Stanley Keeble, Bishop Jerry Goodloe, Lux Singer Bertha Burley Melson, radio station owner Huey Williams, historian L. Stanley Davis, gospel announcers Willie Jones and Effie Rolfe, and many other artists and industry folk.
Literally hundreds of testimonies and tributes came in to the church in the past week and many were read aloud between musical selections. The program streamed live so people around the world could participate.
It was incongruous to be part of such an exuberant service while Dr. Hayes, who would have loved the event more than anyone there, lie motionless.
The organizers did a spectacular job. It was the right kind of home going musical for someone who played an integral role in gospel music history.