The new pastor has founded a gospel group that has traveled to Europe.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Music and ministry will come together as nationally known gospel singer and recording artist Kenny Eldridge takes over as pastor of the Greater Mount Zion Church of God in Christ on Jan. 30 during an installation service.
The Rev. Mr. Eldridge, who has been an elder and musical director at the church, is a licensed minister.
He said "it was a calling from God" that he would take over the congregation headed by his stepbrother, Dr. Bennie Hardin.
The installation will take place at 4 p.m. in the church at 3300 Hudson Avenue.
The Rev. Mr. Harden, who has been with Mount Zion for 30 years, is retiring and asked his youngest brother to follow him, saying that he wanted him to take the church to another level.
Mr. Eldridge founded the Jesus Celebration Singers in 1985. Together they have traveled all over the United States and twice to Europe.
The group was nominated for the Dove Award, a prestigious Christian music award, as well as two Stellar Awards and nine Billboard chart awards.
The group also performed for a campaign appearance at the B & amp;O Station in 1992 for former President Clinton, who was then a candidate running for election to his first term in office.
Mr. Eldridge is a keyboardist, singer and composer who has performed with many of the greatest names in gospel music, including Vickie Winans and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Isaiah Jackson.
A graduate of The Rayen School and the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University, Mr. Eldridge said he will still perform at concerts around the country, but they will not conflict with Sunday worship services.
He also noted that he and the Jesus Celebration Singers will be recording another album in April to mark their 20th anniversary.
Mr. Eldridge said his passion for music will play a major role as he takes over the pastorship of the church. "I'm going to join music and the ministry -- it's going to be a marriage," he said.
He added that his music will help attract young people to Mount Zion and said that the music is geared to be "high energy."
He is married to Dione L. Manigault, who is also his manager. Mr. Eldridge said she is very supportive of him serving as pastor.
Mr. Eldridge, the youngest of 12 children, said that his 80-year-old mother, Martha, and all of his 11 brothers and sisters are planning to be on hand for the ceremony. His father, John Henry Eldridge, is deceased.
Mr. Eldridge said there was a time when he didn't want to come home to Youngstown, but now he said he's home in his church.