Minister Barry Douglas, of Nelson County gospel group Minister Barry Douglas and the Word, had a difficult choice to make after the group’s music was nominated for the 2022 Rhythm of Gospel Awards.
“One thing about being the leader, you have to look out for the whole group as a whole,” said Douglas, the group’s lead singer and manager.
Minister Barry Douglas and the Word had planned to attend the Jacksonville, Florida ceremony, but Douglas had to consider members with underlying conditions and young children given rising COVID-19 cases.
“We just don’t want to risk that chance of going to a hotspot and possibly risking exposure not only to ourselves, but bringing it back home and giving it to our children who are not vaccinated,” Douglas said of the virus exposure risk.
The Rhythm of Gospel Awards is an annual televised award ceremony hosted by the The National and Independent Gospel Music Association. According to its website, the Rhythm of Gospel Awards recognizes outstanding churches and pastors, choirs, and independent gospel artists for contributions to their communities. The event also provides a platform for independent artists to network.
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Minister Barry Douglas and the Word received seven Rhythm of Gospel Music Awards nominations in 2022 for contemporary CD of the year, special event CD of the year, traditional CD of the year, quartet CD of the year, praise and worship CD of the year, best performance by a group or duo and for Douglas as traditional male vocalist of the year.
Travel expenses were another factor in the group’s ultimate decision not to attend the ceremony.
Douglas said the group does its ministry without cost to the community, but benefit work makes it difficult for the group to grow and travel.
“When it comes time for us to move forward, we kind of get stuck because we don’t have the money and that’s the issue we’re having that we run into,” he said.
Douglas acknowledges the nominations are still an achievement.
“Regardless of whether we win an award or not, we will go down in the book as a Rhythm of Gospel-nominated group,” he said.
Minister Barry Douglas and the Word have been together almost 12 years, first under the name Gospel Creation Singers.
“It was a bunch of young people who came together and just started singing and literally made a group out of that,” Douglas said. “We’re still made up of some young, some middle-aged, some older, doesn’t make a difference at all in between. And just people who love to come together and serve the Lord.”
According to Douglas, the group has joined gospel greats Rance Allen, Paul Porter and Debra Snipes for gospel shows and performed on stage at “Queen of Gospel Music” Shirley Caesar’s church.
“We came from not having music, not having anything. It was just the voices,” Douglas said.
Now the group practices with a live band and writes and arranges their own songs.
“We’re learning how to get into the business of writing our own music, our own material, because we have so much talent within our group,” he said.
Douglas said the band is uniquely versatile: “We do not only gospel, we do quartet, we do contemporary, we do different music. All in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Regina Wayne said she’s been a background vocalist with the group for about 10 years. She’s disappointed the group won’t be going to the Rhythm of Gospel Awards.
“I think it would have been a great experience for us. But we’re basically just hoping and praying that perhaps we’ll be able to be afforded that opportunity next year,” Wayne said.
She agreed the group’s decision not to attend had to do with COVID-19 and the cost of the trip.
“We didn’t really have the finances available in order to attend,” Wayne added.
She said the group sings some older songs, but with a twist, and otherwise writes their own material.
She explained the song-writing process: “We’ll just come up with a song, and then we’ll present it to our keyboard player, and then he’ll try to put music behind the tracks, and then we’ll go from there.”
During the pandemic, Minister Barry Douglas and the Word went from practicing once every two weeks to not at all. Wayne said the group plans to resume regular practices in March.
Rebecca Canada, Minister Barry Douglas and the Word’s public relations manager, said group members are faith- and family-oriented.
“They sing based upon their lifestyle. So they definitely live and sing according to the word of God,” Canada said.
Wayne said she calls it, “’See the God in me.’ “
“Because you actually can see it. You can feel it just by the singing and the presentation. So that’s what I would say. You can see the God in us,” Wayne said.
Douglas said even if the group never makes it on bigger stages, “My main goal, my first goal, is to see a soul saved. That’s my first focus, and that means my living wasn’t in vain, and everything we do on this side wasn’t in vain.”