Missouri celebrates Gospel Hall of Fame

Lawmakers celebrated gospel music and touted their love for religious music at the Missouri Gospel Fest event Wednesday morning.

The event came as the Gospel Music Hall of Fame is set to be built at a former Baptist Church in St. Louis.

"I remember, as a kid, growing up in that local church ... I think how much Gospel music has affected me," said Gov. Mike Parson, who spoke at the event in the Capitol Rotunda. "When I see people sing the gospel, I see what it means for that faith, you know, it's not always a preacher giving the message."

A new round of inductees was brought to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, including Marabeth Gentry, a St. Louis native who is known for singing gospel music around the globe. Gentry was able to attend, and took a photo with Parson. Parson noted that religious music used to be controversial in some churches in the United States.

"Not too many years ago, we were having a big discussion on traditional music and contemporary music and how we do that," he said.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was in attendance and dedicated a plaque to the people who run the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

"Most of the time people ask me what my favorite type of music is I say, 'gospel music.' They don't know what that is. They think gospel has its roots in jazz or roots in blues. they don't understand that it has its roots in the real Gospel," Ashcroft said.

Ashcroft said gospel music changed his life and he hoped it could to the same as others.

"I hate to say it, but I think most of the scriptures I memorized have been because of those songs," he said.

He said the museum being in the state will "strengthen our state and our nation and people's lives."

Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, announced the honorees and gave a personal dedication to Gentry, who was attending on her birthday.

"I want to take this moment to honor the past and present generations of gospel singers who spread God's word beautifully," May said. "The quickest way to get the word of God in the hearts of individuals is through a song. You sing that song over and over again and it becomes a part of the spirit."

May said the Hall of Fame would create a new influx of jobs in the recording industry in Missouri. Ashcroft agreed, saying it would bring new job opportunities, recording studios and cultural institutions into the state.