When I was an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, I struggled with finding my “place.” I felt so othered as everyone found their niche of friends, their squad. This feeling was nothing new, of course. However, being in college and away from family made a bit more difficult to confront and overcome. My freshmen year was filled with the usual, “I hate it here, I’m transferring” and its partner “I can’t do this!” Sophomore year was a tad better, but not by much. I was in school, but I wasn’t “home.”
I was involved in a few clubs, but it wasn’t until I joined the New Spirit of Penn Gospel Choir that felt like I had found my family. I was able to worship freely in my native tongue, question my faith, seek and offer prayers, and be me, including wearing church hats with my old soul self. We cried through the breakthroughs and setbacks. We laughed during our retreats and gospel trap remixes. We pushed through those late pre-concert practices together. We awkwardly pushed flyers on Locust Walk. Like any family, there were ups and downs. But we loved each other too much to ever let each other go.
Each concert is a reflection of that love. You can see it on the faces, hear it in the voices, feel in the atmosphere. Praise is what we do. From the Praise Team to “Rock of Ages” with alumni (and the Shoe Ministry), there is no other option.
Although I primarily document weddings and portraits now, the privilege to document their concerts is such an honor. To be amongst family and capture the presence of the Spirit amongst them and the audience is humbling and awe-inspiring. There are a few times I’ve had to stop and just let the Spirit wash over me and just be in the moment, and let their voices be enough.
The last class of seniors I actually knew have graduated(!!!), and I’m starting to feel really old. However, I am excited that every year, a new class steps in and joins our family, and every year, I get the opportunity to fellowship with my new brothers and sisters, and eventually see them transformed with a new sense of purpose. I know my life was certainly changed.
So, until the end of time, I hope to photograph this remarkable and personal experience and showcase it to the world.
I love my NSP family, and I especially love that you give me this opportunity. To NSP: may the world see the God in you.
“You’ve Made a Way” — Travis Greene
“There is No Way” — Ricky Dillard
“Until I Pass Out” — Uncle Reese