Who's Going to Church!
West Angeles Church
Basketball star Magic Johnson has embraced Pentecostal faith.
In 1991, the American public was stunned after NBA superstar Earvin
'Magic' Johnson announced to the world that he had contracted HIV, the
virus that causes AIDS. His multimillion-dollar career with the Los Angeles
Lakers came to a halt as attention focused on the disease. Johnson says
today that he has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and he uses
his popularity to share the gospel with others. He travels the country
speaking on college campuses and to high school students about his faith.
"I thank Him every chance I get-on my knees praying." Johnson said.
A member of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Johnson said he was
drawn to the church by his wife, Cookie, who joined the church first and
then invited him to visit. The couple has pledged $5 million to the church
to help build its new cathedral. The Johnsons also participate in Bible
study and fellowship groups at the church.
The actress says Jesus sorted out her "personal mess."
With a successful acting and singing career and a 100-pound weight
loss. Vesta Williams gives God all the glory for her accomplishments in
life. Invited to West Angeles by a minister, Williams says she was going
through some tough times and needed help. "Laval Belle came to me and said,
"If you take one step toward God, He'll take two steps toward you," Williams
remembers. Five years ago the multitalented actress, who played in the
movie Posse with actor Mario Van Peeples, walked into West Angeles with
Belle, joined the church and received Jesus Christ that Sunday. "I was
fighting a losing battle with a lot of personal mess. I needed God to come
in and say, "Okay girl, that's enough, cut it out", the actress said. Since
that time, Williams has pitched in to make the new cathedral a reality.
When asked what she likes about her church, the actress replied, "There's
nothing not to like about West Angeles." Explained Williams: "The people
are wonderful. I love Bishop and Mrs. Blake, and anything I can do to help
get the new church built, I'll do it." Williams occasionally sings at the
church during special events and participates in special women's meetings.
The singer and songwriter has many vocal projects to her credit, including
several No. 1 hit records.
The legendary musician sometimes plays the organ at West Angeles. Groomed
by the legendary R&B label Motown, Stevie Wonder has been thrilling
audiences since he was 10 years old. Blind from birth, Wonder is noted
for his God-given abilities to sing, write and arrange musicÑas
well as play several instruments. Now 47, Wonder is a longtime member of
West Angeles Church of God in ChristÑand sometimes he sings and
plays the organ during worship services. In February, the West Angeles
Community Development Corporation (CDC) honored Wonder with the Unity award
for his contributions to the community. Past recipients of the award include
former Los Angeles Chief of Police Willie Williams, basketball star Magic
Johnson and Hollywood producer Robert Townsend. Church officials say celebrities
who attend the church are faithful members who care about others and are
serious about their personal relationships with Christ. Wonder is no stranger
to awards and recognition. His No. 1 singles 'You Haven't Done Nothin',
'I Wish' and 'Sir Duke' made millions of dollars, and he has won 15 Grammy
awards for his efforts. In recent years, Wonder has concentrated on humanitarian
efforts such as campaigning against drunk driving and drug abuse and raising
money for blind children.
The Hollywood producer is a family man.
As an actor, producer and director, Robert Townsend is considered one
of the most popular television stars in Hollywood. The 41-year-old Chicago
native plays in the hit television show The Parent'Hood, a sitcom that
reflects his commitment to wholesome entertainment.
He says his strong teachings and foundation are rooted in the church.
"My entire life as a kid growing up was the church," Townsend recently
told Gospel Today magazine. With a successful TV program and many
acting opportunities, Townsend finds it necessary to seek God about everything
he does. "The bottom line is that I'm always on my knees," he says.
Townsend's commitment to his family and to God, both on and off the
screen, landed him the 1997 Family of the Year award at West Angeles Church
of God in Christ. At the awards banquet, pastor Charles Blake told attendees
that the Townsends are dedicated to the church and to the community.
Said Blake: "It is by example of the Townsend family that we as a community
can take pride in their contributions and (in their) efforts to better
Blake said that he never begged any celebrities to attend his growing
church. He says they continue to invite one another. In the early 1980's,
Townsend invited actor Denzel Washington to visit West Angeles, and he's
been attending since. Townsend attends West Angeles with his wife, Chen,
and their two children, Sierra and Skyler.
The Oscar-winning actor is the son of a Pentecostal preacher.
Academy Award winner Denzel WashingtonÑwho won an Oscar for
his role in the Civil War film Glory, began attending West Angeles Church
of God in Christ in 1981. The 43-year-old actor says he's been in church
all his life. "I grew up in those days before 'COGIC' was a word. I didn't
know anything else but church, "Washington said. He says his mother attended
a COGIC church, and his father was a minister in the same denomination.
As longtime members of West Angeles, Washington and his wife, Pauletta,
give from the bottom of their hearts and wallets to help the church. Washington
has pledged $2.5 million to the new cathedral fund.
The actor says people talk a lot, but they don't do anything to solve
the problems that face urban America. "I'm just doing what I can do and
what I have been asked to do, making contributions where I can and making
people aware of the great work that Bishop Charles Blake is doing here,"
he says. The handsome actor, who won his Oscar in 1989, is adamant that
he is a born-again believer in Jesus. "I am saved," he says. "I believe
in the Word. I also believe in works and the work that this church is doing
and the work that it can do in this area (of Los Angeles)."
Washington's clout at the box office has landed him a lot of work,
too. In his current movie Fallen, he portrays a sharp police detective
who puts away a demon-possessed killer.
He also starred in The Preacher's Wife, a remake of Cary Grant's 1947
film The Bishop's Wife. Washington portrayed an angel who teaches a clergyman
about the priorities of God and family.
Reprinted by permission, Charisma, Strang Communications