Celebration of Praise unites churches in west Florida

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BONIFAY— More than 150 musicians led two worship services with a combined total of 650 in attendance at the 2022 Celebration of Praise held at First Baptist Church Bonifay.

The goal of the community worship experience, with multiple church choirs and orchestras joining together, is to magnify the greatness of Jesus Christ.

The annual event began in 2012 and was born out of the hearts of worship pastors Gary Medlock of First Baptist Church Bonifay, Daniel McNeill of First Baptist Church Lynn Haven and Dan Colletti who retired from First Baptist Church Chipley and has since passed.

Celebration of Praise
Orchestra members from several northwest churches come together for worship.

“God gave the call to worship in the Old Testament,” said Pastor Medlock. “David employed over 3,000 musicians and singers, and we want to honor God today and show that the church choir is relevant and can have a valuable effect on worship.”

Each year, the event is hosted at a different church with a multigenerational choir and orchestra leading the congregation to join them in song with a variety of musical styles, all focused on the one true God.

Celebration of Praise
Ellis Wimberly, Worship Pastor of First Baptist Church Chipley, leads the congregation in worship.

In addition to the collaboration of worship leaders to select music and practice with their musicians, the event requires many volunteers to gather chairs, music stands, audiovisual equipment and instruments, and also to help with parking and ushering at the host church.

“Celebration of Praise is a huge collaborative effort,” said Pastor McNeill. “It is really special watching God unify our churches and worship ministries.”

This year’s event included gospel presentations by Pastor Shelly Chandler of First Baptist Church Bonifay and Pastor Trent Gann of First Baptist Church Lynn Haven.

“The event is a highlight in the community, a beacon of hope, a blessing for many who are struggling with heavy burdens. We all need the reminder of the power of Jesus Christ, and Celebration of Praise accomplishes this through songs about hope, life, light, mercy and love,” said Pastor McNeill.

The event was not held for the past two years due to the pandemic. The two-service Celebration of Praise in 2022 demonstrated that the church is “alive and well,” leaders said, as stated in the closing song, “The Church Triumphant,” by Bill and Gloria Gaither.

“Praise the Lord, we were able to get back together again after taking 2020 and 2021 off for the pandemic,” said Pastor Medlock. “It was really good.”

Participants for 2022 were Blue Lake Baptist Church in Chipley, First Baptist Church Bonifay, First Baptist Church Chipley, First Baptist Church Lynn Haven, Northside Baptist Church in Ponce de Leon, Shiloh Baptist Church in Chipley, and Bill Davis, chair of the music and worship division at  The Baptist College of Florida.

Celebration of Praise
From left to right: Richard Davenport, Ellis Wimberly (FBC Chipley), Gary Medlock (FBC Bonifay), Danny Love (Blue Lake Baptist Church Chipley), Daniel McNeill (FBC Lynn Haven), Stacey Etheridge (Shiloh Baptist Church Chipley)

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