Today’s “Positively Cincinnati” was born in a personal visit to Lee Chapel AME Church. During Sunday worship, members of an a cappella group there sang their hearts out and certainly got my attention.
So I asked the church’s first lady, Yolanda Cooper, about them. Turns out the group, the Men of Faith, shares its sweet sounds beyond the walls of the Evanston church. It all takes practice, and that’s where this story begins.
It was a Monday night after work. In between rounds of laughter, we heard some incredible singing courtesy of Joe Williams, Dee Overstreet, Vincent Spears, Michael Stollings, Ron Henry, Al Staples and James Ficklin.
No instruments. Just vocals.
“I bear a tone,” said Staples with a smile.
Not a single one of the members who belongs to “Men of Faith” had to know how to sing to get into the group, but they have to be committed to the mission: Bringing the Good Word to people in song. Their efforts have earned them the nickname “The Gospel Temptations.”
“For many of us, this is our hobby,” said Williams, the spiritual leader whom the other members call the president. “So this is what we enjoy doing. It puts spice in your life. It keeps you grounded. It keeps you humble.”
Especially when they see their impact. The Men of Faith take their music beyond church walls into hospitals, nursing homes and hospices.
“Singing is the best medicine for the soul,” Williams said.
They know sometimes theirs will be the last melody someone hears. Stollings almost shied away from the group because he wasn’t certain he was the right person to visit the sick and shut-in, but making a few visits changed his tune.
“It’s some of the best work I’ll ever do this side of glory,” he said.
When they pay a visit, they sing their way in. We went with them to the Salvation Army’s Booth Residence to see how their performance lifted people’s spirits.
“I couldn’t hear nobody praying because I was way down yonder by myself,” sang the group. Folks familiar with the gospel music — almost everyone in the room — sang and clapped along with them.
“It was wonderful because it reminded me of songs I heard as a child,” said Loretta Blackburn, a resident. “They were so full of energy. You could tell they were sincere. They did this out of the kindness of their hearts.”
They do it because of their brotherhood. After years of Monday practices and performances, they’ve formed a family within their larger church family.
“I love you guys from the bottom of my heart because I’ve seen what we do,” Ficklin said. “And what we do, we do out of love. So I love you all.”
They, of course, responded (with some laughter): “We love you too.”
If you’d like to have the “Men of Faith” sing for a sick loved one, all you have to do is contact Lee Chapel AME Church. The number is 513-871-5885.