Sunday, May 27, 2007

Church goes hip-hop to reach younger crowd

(May 27, 2007) — The Episcopal Church of St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene took it to the street Saturday.

It may be one of the oldest churches in Rochester, but the 5 p.m. service was thoroughly modern.

On a temporary stage set up on Fitzhugh Street in front of the church, rappers backed by live musicians performed and participated in a hip-hop mass that is expected to become a monthly event at the church.

"I think it's a really neat opportunity to draw in a lot of youth and do something kind of unconventional," said Jessica Kane, 31, of Penfield, a church member.

About 100 people turned out, a mix of young and old sitting in folding chairs on the sidewalk and on the curb.

The hip-hop mass concept was started in the Bronx in 2004 by Episcopal priest the Rev. Timothy Holder, better known as "Poppa T," who has taken the idea to more than 30,000 worshippers in about 100 masses across the country.

Holder's ministry, now based in Atlantic City, N.J., received the 2005 Peacemaker Award from the World Council of Churches and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Saturday's event featured the rappers Missionary Men from New York City, Paradox from Brooklyn and D.O. from Toronto.

The Rev. Michael Hopkins, rector of St. Luke and St. Simon, said church officials have been seeking "new ways to speak the message of Christianity to young people today."

"And we can't think of any better than this," he said. "I think there's an opportunity for us to bring a lot of people together here, especially young people, but I think we can bring all kinds of people together," Hopkins said.

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