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A new generation for local praise and worship band
They mostly play on Sundays and Wednesdays. But Freedom, the praise and worship band out of Christian Fellowship Church, has also opened for Toby Mac and will head to Asheville at the end of this year to open for Third Day.

The band has only been in existence for around a year. Daniel Parker, who serves as the pastor of the church and is also the lead singer of Freedom, said the idea is something the church has never tried before.

“This was something that had never been done,” Parker said. “It started out with just me and a guitar and now it’s a 10 member group.

Parker attended Christian Fellowship, which is located in the Sandy Cross community, as a child and came back in 2003 after he got married. In 2004, Parker said he got the call to preach. It was the same time that he gave his life to the Lord, he said.

“I felt like I was going to be the next pastor of the church,” Parker said.

Parker became a youth minister at the church, then the youth pastor. In October 2008, Parker became the senior pastor.

As pastor, Parker said he wanted to try something new and looked at a more contemporary service.

“I had a new vision,” Parker said. “Being in the church it was a risky thing at first but I stopped using the word risk and used the word leap of faith. It’s contemporary, it’s edgy and it’s really appealing to everyone.”

“We’re reaching the common man so the common man can feel like they can go to church,” he added.

The transition wasn’t easy, Parker admits, but it has brought more new people to the church.

“This has happened to a little country church that’s right here in the country,” Parker said. “And the transition and the moves we make is really what a lot of cities have done.”

“We’re starting to really see some growth from this,” he added.

As for Freedom, Parker said he’s excited about the opportunities the group has been given to minister to others through music.

Parker’s sister, Susanne Strickland, agrees and said she feels the band has been a great outreach for the church.

“It’s been a great outreach in the community because the music is exciting and uplifting and you’re not singing about God and what God can do,” she said. “You’re singing to Him and singing His praises.”

Strickland is one of the singers of Freedom and is also a lifelong member of Christian Fellowship. She also serves as the choir director of the church.

“I have gone there since I was a little girl,” Strickland said.

Strickland admits the change was hard but added that it brought more than just a new type of music to the church.

“The change was difficult,” she said. “It was a very trying time. We had  a lot of ups and downs.”

“(But) it opened up this whole new world to me,” she added. “It’s another way to bring me closer to God. It’s not just the music that’s changed. It’s the whole outlook.”

April Smith agrees.

“Music is very uplifting and it draws people and a  lot of the songs (Freedom) sings are about God’s love and mercy and grace,” Smith said. “The word is the most important thing but the music is a drawing point and a ministry in itself.”

Smith is a member of Freedom and also serves as the Praise and Worship leader at the church. She’s been attending Christian Fellowship for around 14 years. Smith said the changes have been good for the church and have allowed more people to be reached.

“I think it’s been awesome,” she said. “I think it’s been God appointed. God’s going to do great things through Pastor Daniel.”

“I grew up on the hymns and traditional church services and I think they are great,” Smith added. “But I think we are living in a different time. We’re just trying to reach this generation of people in any way that we can to bring them to Christ.”

Kevin Davis, who plays the electronic piano for Freedom, said he has enjoyed the opportunities that being in the band has afforded him. Davis began attending Christian Fellowship around November and joined the band around the same time.

“I started playing piano with them and kind of fell in and started playing with them on Wednesday and Sunday and on a regular basis,” Davis said. “The kind of music that we do is very uplifting and has a lot of connections to God and our Father.”

Davis said though it is exciting to open up for such big names as Toby Mac and Third Day, there is a deeper meaning to what Freedom does.

“The purpose of what we’re doing is far beyond playing music,” he said. “That’s really the whole vibe. Music comes out of a place from where you are and where you want to get to.”

“You hear it in your ears but it goes to your heart too,” he added. “It appeals to the senses but it goes a little deeper.”

For more information on Christian Fellowship Church or Freedom, visit www.christianfellowshipsandycross.com.

Pictured (Above): FREEDOM, the worship band from Christian Fellowhsip Church in the Sandy Cross Community, has opened for Toby Mac and will open for Third Day in December. Pictured on the bottom row (L-R) is Abby Pridgen, April Smith, Lynn Smith, Crystal Jones, Susanne Strickland and Bonnie Greene. On the top row (L-R) is: John Bunn, Pastor Daniel Parker, Kevin Davis and Woody Williamson. (Photo by Anthony Barham)

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