For the most part, youth continued to do what they had done for half a century following the Azusa Street experience—making themselves content with such things as they had—Sunday School classes and membership in the choirs of the church.
“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it! Proverbs 15:23. Controversy aside, a history-making meeting of the minds had took place in early 1954. Permission was granted by Bishop James P. Simms, Pastor and Overseer. Vision had become reality for Brother Daniel S. Boone, son of Sunday School Superintendent Vincent Edward and Sister Katie Lottie Queen Boone. The overseer’s use of skill, tact and diplomacy quieted the apprehensive, no-nonsense saints on the one hand while encouraging the ecstatic, energetic and ready-to-go-to-work youth to move ahead with their plans to host a conference on the other. The real work was yet to begin.
At that time, Brother Boone was a member of a national choral group with which he would eventually hold several national offices—the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. The organization, established in 1950, predisposed young Boone to various areas of Gospel music, especially choral direction but also to convention-planning and, perhaps unwittingly, the experience had given him a vision of what young people, if given the opportunity, could accomplish on their own, under the tutelage of their elders. In addition, his affiliation with the National Convention group can be credited for development of Boone’s gifts and talents in areas his home church was unable to address at the time. Whereas the church’s chief mission was development of the total Christian from the spiritual standpoint, the Convention’s focus was, in part, on development of its members’ musical gifts and talents.
After Bishop Simms’s approval, a staff had to be assembled, a set of annual dates negotiated, a young people’s conference choir established with rehearsals arranged, a weeklong program of events planned, and a myriad of other details coordinated, involving all of the youth from the sister churches in Cedar Heights and Brandywine, Md., and in Charles Town, West Va.
President Daniel S. Boone’s Tenure: 1954-1961
The church would come to see the range of organizational skills employed by Brother Daniel as the catalyst in pulling together all of the arrangements and, to a large extent, the support needed from the church members themselves. They would find the young man to be an excellent records-keeper, who arrived at meetings promptly with a fully developed agenda and ready to meet the challenges of implementing the vision for the first conference. The same requirements he had of his young counterparts were those he practiced and lived by. Conference choir rehearsals were conducted on schedule at the appointed hour. Idle chatter, gum-chewing and playfulness were not tolerated. One rule that was rigidly observed: if choir members did not attend rehearsals, they were not permitted to sing in the upcoming appearance. Brother Dan’s caliber of choral direction, together with his musical gifts as pianist and organist, gave an already-reputable and popular choir throughout the Washington region added distinction. Finally, he was precise, detail-oriented, thorough and professional, including annual conference programs prepared by licensed printing companies.
In terms of the choir’s formation, the Jubilee Chorus, established in 1942 from older youth membership at House of Prayer Church of God, No. 1, had waned. However, having remained dormant for eleven years, the Jubilee Chorus underwent a renewal and reorganization in 1953, a year prior to the Young People’s Conference start-up. In 1954, it formed the nucleus of the Young People’s Conference Choir. The aggregate group boosted members from the mother church in Landover, Cedar Heights, Brandywine and Charles Town, West Va. Along with guest choirs, they provided much of the music during the weeklong services. Pianists and organists during the early years were Brother Daniel Boone, Brother Melvin Myles, and Brother James Levi Simms, son of Bishop James and Mother Evelyn Simms. The choir was always accompanied by faithful trombonist, Deacon Oliver Harper.
The new church organ, a small Hammond house organ, was dedicated in the ending session of the Fourth Annual Young People’s Conference in July 1958. The new modern Hammond replaced the old Willis organ. Without a doubt, the accompaniment to the Young People’s Conference Choir was an added enhancement heard throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, given the long-standing popular Sunday broadcast at 2:00 P.M. The renown enjoyed by the Jubilee Chorus was in no small part traceable to House of Prayer’s weekly radio program. One more extra bonus for those delegates from Cedar Heights, Brandywine and Charles Town was singing on the third Sunday July broadcast over WANN-AM with their Landover counterparts.
Many of the Jubilee Chorus members in their younger years sang in the “Try to be A Blessing Chorus. Formed in 1943 by Missionary Marion Simms Hill, as these youngsters were looking on as the older youth became active in the Young People’s Conference Choir.
With television just beginning to make its debut in some households in the mid- to late-1950s, radio was the next familiar medium with which African American holiness and Pentecostal saints were acquainted. Besides, there was the stigma of worldliness attached to television-viewing. Listening to worship service broadcasts by radio was not only an important tool of evangelism in those days, it was a favorite pastime enjoyed by the saints, and an extension of worship services in their own home churches. Further, not all had the means to travel across town, for example, to 6th & F Streets, S.W. or to Park Road in northwest D.C. to enjoy the Sunday night service and to hear soloist, Sister Lena Phillips Jones preceding the sermons of Bishop Samuel Kelsey, with whom Bishop Simms fellowshipped. Radio as the next-best thing to being there. Many saints around the city felt the same way about Bishop Simms and the Jubilee Chorus because they had visited and become acquainted with them through radio.
With word that the House of Prayer organization of churches had approved a young people’s conference, Brother Boone’s plans, waiting in the wings, were unveiled. Young Boone regarded the concept as a means to diversify worship within the House of Prayer and to give the youth a more substantive role. Youth conferences represented a more youthful perspective to praise and worship. It had become their hour to shine forth. It also provided an effective means of uniting three groups—young adults in the church, alumni who had moved on to other locations with independent ministries, and the parent body in Landover (now Capitol Heights) with Cedar Heights, Brandywine, Charles Town and elsewhere. Brother Dan became the conference’s first president with the following slate of officers:
Original Young People’s Conference Staff
Brother Daniel S. Boone – President
Brother Francis S. Myles – Vice President
Sister Leonora M. Gross – Secretary
Sister Bessie E. Conway – Financial Secretary
Brother Melvin A. Myles – Treasurer
Sister Marie E. Watts – Spiritual Advisor
Sister Ruth Ellen Johnson West – Chaplain
Sister Marjorie A. Brown – Sergeant-of-Arms
Bishop James P. Simms – Church Founder-Pastor
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, young men shall see visions.” Joel 2:28. By Saturday night, all roads led to the House of Prayer Church of God in Landover, Maryland— and home of the organization’s annual mid-July Young People’s Conference (YPC). And, the phenomenon uniting hearts and minds—the essence of the excitement—was the common love of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel in song, seminar discussions, and the preached Word! Principally, it represented a coming together of young African-Americans, fellowshipping and bonding together as a result of a week-long worship experience. Another special feature was the sense of outreach in friendship and fellowship to youth from other African-American Pentecostal movements.
Brother Boone started something that simply could not be extinguished: praise and worship built around fellowship initiated by, for, and about young people. He would remain at the helm of conference program and planning through 1961…Praise God!