When you start connecting the dots to your past, everything comes full circle.
When my friend Mark Bishop is in concert close to home, I always try to make an effort to attend, and Sunday night was no different as he performed at Union City Christian Church in Richmond.
During the concert, Mark talked about the family’s heritage in Southern Gospel Music and mentioned Granny Bishop as the driving force behind the family ministry when he toured with his dad Kenneth and brother Kenny as “The Bishops.”
As a child, I remember my mom would call granny Bishop many times asking for prayer when I was sick. We visited her home and spent time with her. I always remembered her as a praying lady through her conversations with my mom and dad, whether it was over the phone or in church.
Mark also referenced a church in Irvine he attended when he was young. As he described the pastor and mentioned the name of the church, my mind flashed back to my childhood. I saw the preacher — the late Paul Arvin — as Mark described in my own mind.
Back in the day, my dad took us all over the place to church and I remember attending that block building on several occasions. That’s where I became acquainted with Mark and his family. Later, my dad had the family sing at churches he pastored. I taped one of those early concerts back in the early 1980s and I still have that cassette tape in my archives.
Also during the concert, Mark explained how Granny Bishop’s desire to have her son and grandsons record an album which led to what would later become a career destination for him both as a singer and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, the family toured the nation as one of the top groups in their genre. They had a yearly homecoming at Indian Fort Theater that drew hundreds to Berea the week after the Berea Craft Festival. They also recorded their 10th anniversary concert at Brock Auditorium in Richmond.
When the family retired from the road, Mark carried on both as a soloist and a songwriter and has done remarkably well on his own. He has carved his own niche and it all began with those humble beginnings at a small church in Irvine, the same place I attended some church services as a child.
I’ve always considered Mark and the rest of his family like kinfolk. It all traces back to Granny Bishop and the influence she had on her own family and others in her circle of friends.