On Sundays, Steward Stiles III sits quietly as he beats on the drums while his uncle preaches to a congregation of about 40 at the New Jerusalem Temple of God. In his Sunday best black suit, white button-up shirt and red tie, he listens to his uncle’s sermon about the power of prayer. When the congregation claps in recognition of the preached word, Stiles taps on his symbols.
Most days, Stiles is singing, whether in vocal classes or with the reformed Webster University Gospel Choir.
“Often times you have to believe in what looks like a dead situation,” said Phillip Stiles, Sr., pastor at church service on Feb. 20. “Sometimes to get a miracle you have to put something out.”
This idea of persistence has been preached to Steward Stiles III since he was a child and it’s become a part of his character-a trait he hopes will aid him as he develops the Gospel Choir and promotes its growth. Steward Stiles III’s grandfather, Steward Stiles Sr., founded the New Jerusalem Temple Church of God 31 years Sr. is the church’s bishop. Music is a major part of the church service.
“I’ve been singing gospel since I was born,” said Stiles, a sophomore music major pursuing a career in gospel music. “I was born and raised in the church.”
When the singing stops, organ ceases and Steward Stiles III rests the drumsticks in his lap, Phillip Stiles Sr.’s voice proclaimed, but the music’s silence was still noticeable. His voice as well as the voices of the other Stiles family members rang in choirs in the past. Phillip Stiles Sr. is not surprised by Steward Stiles III’s pursuit of gospel music. Steward Stiles III is the descendant of three generations of preachers. “If he’s going to sing, we expect as a family it’s going to be gospel,” Phillip Stiles Sr. said “It’s expected. It’s in the gene pool. It’s in the blood.”
“Where is everybody?” asked Justin, wondering why only four members of the gospel choir showed up to the WVA apartments for rehearsal on Feb. 18.
“It’s OK, we can work with what we’ve got,” Steward Stiles III said to the singers. “I like to work from the ground up. I know this is a baby
thing and people think it’s going to be big all of a sudden but we’ve got to work at it. You got to put in the fruits of your labor and it’ll come in later on.
That’s how churches are started. You start with 100 people and suddenly you have a thousand.” The choir’s first performance will be on April 20 in the Winifred-Moore Auditorium. “That’s when we’re going to show everybody we’re gospel choir and we’re here, we’re back and we’re better than ever,” Steward Stiles III said.
Gospel choir has been inactive since 2007. Stiles, along with Krystal Wilson and a sevenmember group, came together to praise the Lord the best way they knew how-through gospel songs. Wilson said new members hopefully stay dedicated and keep the choir singing.
“There are new people with enthusiasm,” Wilson said. “There are people who are going to be here for a while.”
Like Steward Stiles III, Krystal Wilson, vicepresident and junior speech communications major, and Deja Randle, a sophomore digital broadcast journalism major, grew up singing gospel music in their churches. “I like the spiritual connection,” Wilson said. “It makes me feel warm inside.”
Randle, an alto, stood in front of Steward Stiles III, patiently waiting for vocal direction throughout rehearsal. She said she loves worshipping God through song.
“My lifestyle is built off of the word of God,” Randle said. After performing a solo of the song “Falling in Love with Jesus,” Steward Stiles III said he knew gospel music was in his future. Listeners approached him and said his voice impacted them.
“I just sang my heart out,” he said. “I want to feel that way all the time.”