By Heather Harden
A Grand Vision
From the outside, the building that houses the Grand Ole Gospel could easily be mistaken as a typical business. The red-lettered sign that rises in front of the red roofed structure only hints to what goes on inside on Saturday nights.
Since opening its doors in 2002, the venue has ministered to thousands through gospel music. The venue has hosted big name gospel singers and home grown talent. The concept of the Grand Ole Gospel started out as the dream of Ronnie Lewis, owner. But Ronnie says the dream wasn’t of his own making.
It was in November 2000, Ronnie says, that the vision of the gospel music venue came to him in a dream while he slept one night. “As any human would do I dismissed the dream the first time,” Ronnie remembers.
A few months later when Ronnie had the dream again, he felt he could no longer dismiss the idea. He knew there had to be something to it. The vision filling Ronnie’s dreams was to create a gospel music center just outside the rural town Chocowinity, North Carolina. Looking back on the time following the dreams, Ronnie recalls the number of incidents that lead him to make the vision into a reality. So many things happened all at once, he says-from the building materials he received from a friend, to the land coming up for sale where he hoped to build the complex-that he could not ignore the idea. “Too many things fell into place for this not to be a calling from God,” he explains. “Who am I to argue with God?” Within two years Ronnie’s vision from the Lord had become a reality. The first concert was held on May 25, 2002.
Thou Shall Not Judge
While the Grand Ole Gospel is a place of worship, there’s no mistaking the inside of the venue for a church. Located in the lobby are typical features of a concert hall such as a refreshment stand, gift shop and merchandise tables. The auditorium where the music is made has a comfortable, rustic feel. Antiques, like a 1925 Nash automobile, make-up the auditorium’s down home décor. Once seated, visitors might be taken back to memories of evenings spent on the front porch listening to grandpa pick on his guitar. The stage resembles a front porch that could’ve been found on any rural home not so many years ago, complete with tin roof and white washed rocking chairs. The stage is made from wood taken from an abandoned house that sat on the property before it was demolished to make room for the Grand Ole Gospel building. The house that contributed the wood for the stage was once the home of LaVerne Tripp’s grandmother. Tripp is a widely known gospel artist who has also performed at the Grand Ole Gospel. The