The selection of music that played at a modest volume during a wake on Saturday at a church in Brooklyn seemed appropriate. The minister being mourned was the artist responsible for creating it.
Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at the funeral
Friends, family, congregants and colleagues of the Rev. Timothy D. Wright gathered at his Brooklyn church to pay their respects.
Congregants filled Grace Tabernacle Christian Center Church of God in Christ in Crown Heights.
Congregants and a handful of gospel luminaries filled Grace Tabernacle Christian Center Church of God in Christ in Crown Heights to offer their farewells to the minister, the Rev. Timothy D. Wright, 61, the church's founder and a Grammy-nominated singer and composer.
Mr. Wright died April 24, nearly 10 months after sustaining a spinal injury in a car accident in July that killed his wife, Betty Wright, 58, and his grandson D. J. Wright, 14. Mr. Wright, who was known as the "Godfather of Gospel," was described by everyone at the church -- from his book editor to his concert promoter to his childhood baby sitter -- as a humble man who never abandoned his Brooklyn roots and always had time for aspiring musicians.
"It's a great loss," said the Rev. Andrea Vereen, of St. Mark's Holy Church in Brooklyn, who grew up with Mr. Wright. Her former husband, the actor Ben Vereen, was also at the service.
"He never said, 'No, I can't,' " Mr. Vereen said of Mr. Wright. "He had the determination that he'd walk again, that he'd preach again. But the body has its own clock, and he couldn't carry on."
The gospel singer Byron Cage was a teenager when he met Mr. Wright and recorded with him in 1990. "He was a great man in gospel music," said Mr. Cage, who lives in Atlanta. "His music was inspiring, but also energetic. There was never a dull moment with Tim."
With Mr. Wright's music playing, mourners filed past his body, propped up in a cushioned coffin. He was dressed in a black suit and shiny black loafers.
Barbara Heyward, 67, said she used to baby-sit for Mr. Wright when she was a teenager. "When he was 10, he used to break into St. John's Church to learn how to play the organ," Ms. Heyward said. "He's known as a singer, but he's the greatest organist you'd ever see. Well, the pastor found out and said, 'Here, take a key.' "
Michael Thompson, 51, edited Mr. Wright's book, "Who's Really on the Lord's Side," which was published shortly before the accident. "He was a humble man. He always had time to help younger musicians," he said, "and he had an eye and an ear for talent."
The service started off in a somber manner -- a stark contrast to one of Mr. Wright's foot-stomping and hand-clapping gospel numbers -- but as the afternoon wore on, congregants joined in a rousing rendition of his song "We're Gonna Make It."
Timothy D. Wright Jr., who is one of Mr. Wright's five sons and is known as Donny, said his family was prepared for his father's death, given his serious injuries. But, he added, "He's in a better place now. He's with my mother and his first grandson."
Donny Wright and his brothers formed their father's band -- "We were the gospel Jackson 5," he said. After his father's funeral on Monday, Mr. Wright said, the family would focus on maintaining the church his father founded 19 years ago. "We have to keep the ministry alive," he said.
But the ministry will endure, Mr. Wright said.
"You can go into every church on any given Sunday and hear one of his songs being sung by a church choir," he said. "That's bigger than radio or records. That's his ministry being spread without him even being around."
Source: New York Times
Photos Source: New York Times, Newsday