Church club provides singing, dancing, basketball

It was not your typical variety revue.

Club Zion, housed at the Zion Baptist Church Community Center, at 17 West King Road, in Hampton, is not a typical club, either.

Gospel comedians, praise dancers, and singers set the stage for 2011 Club Zion show, which was held recently. There were even basketball games.

More than 250 people attended the games and variety show, and the audience was composed of mostly teenagers and pre-teens.

"This is something that we are doing to keep the boys off the street in the community," said Senior Pastor Nathaniel Lee. "It grows every year. We get more and more young people."

John Hurt, who operates center, said the church has plans to offer after-school programs, exercise classes and dances in the Zion Baptist Church Community Center.

"We want the children in the community to become better students," said Hurt. "We are going to have computer training, to help them with their education.

"Pastor Lee," he said, "had a vision to build the center to reach the community. This way, we can win them to Jesus Christ. We are trying to give them an outlet other than walking the streets."

Club Zion, now in its fifth year, kicked off its recent show with a basketball tournament, featuring 35, three-on-three teams. The center, equipped with a basketball court, is open daily, except Wednesdays and Sundays. On those days, the center is a sanctuary for worship services.

The activities provided at Club Zion were warmly received, and the young performers appeared to be involved, and often, intense.

Standing ovations followed performances by two dance troupes, "In His Arms Ministry" and "Spiritual Movement Mime Ministry."

Shaquavia Ward, was one of the performers with the In His Arms Ministry group. "It's like my mind is open when I dance," said Ward. "There are no limits to what I can do through Christ. It's like I can feel that I am reaching the audience. I know they get the message God wanted to give them through our dancing."

Her dance troupe performed to Vickie Winans' rendition of "Safe In His Arms." Ward portrayed a person being confronted with various obstacles, and being lured in the wrong direction. In the end, however, the character she played chose God.

Throughout the Club Zion variety show, there was one character who kept the audience howling with laughter –– "Auntie on a Mission," whose real name is Arlene Morgan. She was the mistress of ceremonies. Morgan told jokes between the acts.

She admitted to coming out of character during several of the more-moving performances. "I watched those young people perform, and they gave God their all," said Morgan. "To watch them bring their gifts and talents into a different setting like this, is wonderful."

Throughout the show, Morgan pushed a mannequin, "Honey," around in a wheel chair. She referred to him as her man.

"I can go anywhere I want to, and he don't complain," said Morgan. "He don't say nothing, he just sits there."