LOCKPORT – A passion has led Renea Taylor since she was a child, and a vision helped her take that passion in new directions as an adult.
Now with her own burgeoning church and a series of coming gospel singing performances, including one at The Sozo Group worship event Sunday, Taylor is merging her passion and vision to create a new destiny.
“If I can use my gifts to touch people’s lives and help bring them to God, that’s the best way I can think of to use them,” said Taylor, 58, of Plainfield.
Taylor has come to the right place. The Sozo Group’s founder and event organizer, Jessica Olivito of Lockport, is being led by a vision of her own. It’s grown since she began working on it last fall, Olivito said.
Olivito stressed that The Sozo Group is a grass-roots mission. It does not have nonprofit status at this time, because the group still is starting up.
“This weekend’s event is only the second one we’ve done,” Olivito said. “The first one was back in November. It was a women’s worship experience with 10 different churches. It was a cool concept night of unity, such a powerful night, and this weekend is going to be even more powerful because it’s going to have four female worship leaders together. But it’s for men and women, and it’s titled ‘Never Be The Same.’ It’s going to be amazing.”
Taylor has sung since she was 8, growing up in East Chicago. Her first time in front of an audience was at 11, singing in church, because of a trick her mother played.
“My mom knew I was too shy to do it, so she told me she was sick and it would make her feel better if I sung in church,” Taylor said. “It made me so happy to sing and so happy to have people tell me my singing moved them, and that stayed with me. That’s why I’ve been singing ever since.”
Taylor continued singing in church and pursued a career with a rhythm and blues/pop band called Bang, which toured worldwide and released a cassette in 1991.
“It was something I was hooked on from the time I was a kid, watching my older sister and brother with their groups,” Taylor said. “I just got hooked on their energy and fun that they had on stage, and I wanted to do that, too.”
Bang ended in 2006, and Taylor and her husband, Dennis, moved to Plainfield, and her life and music became more entwined with her faith. She started working with Community Christian Church in Romeoville.
“I really liked it. It was different, more pop music and Christian pop than I was used to, but I liked it,” Taylor said. “Since then, my life has really been taking a great direction. I became a worship leader, started a choir, and then my husband and I got the calling to start a church.”
On Sept. 14, the Taylors took the plunge and began holding services at their new Lakeside Worship Center, at the Plainfield Academy gymnasium. The crowds have grown for their weekly sessions at 10 a.m. Sundays.
“It’s a diverse group. We specifically want to be diverse, because it’s nice to look out into the church and see all kinds of people of all different sizes and colors and ages,” Taylor said. “We feel like that’s what heaven is going to be like – all different people of all different colors.”
While Taylor has a new home with her church, she’s still happy to get out and spread the word, and let her voice be heard, both speaking and singing. That led her to participate in this weekend’s show, which is part of a much larger movement, Olivito said.
The Sozo Group – after the Greek word, Sozo, which means “protect our minds and heal our souls through Christ,” Olivito said – wants to build a network of churches to host between six and 15 events over the coming year, with 10 to 20 churches partnering with them, Olivito said. The Sozo Group is a nondenominational group that welcomes all, she said.
“We’re a group of Christian worshippers and artists looking to spark a revival by collaborating in worship experiences that highlight the power and presence of God,” Olivito said. “And we are doing so with very talented, very creative people who are sharing their gifts and faith with others.”
Such as Taylor.
“When Jessica approached me, I told her I’d love to be a part of what she was doing,” Taylor said. “I’m looking forward to it, just to be able to be with all of the other worship leaders and to be a part of something so big and to reach so many people.”
As for the future, Taylor hopes it holds more of the same, as she’s quite happy with the present.
“I just want to work alongside my husband to save as many souls as we can,” Taylor said. “I know what my purpose is in life, and that’s it – to sing and to help people and to help souls searching to be fulfilled. I can’t think of any purpose greater than that.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Never Be The Same”
WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Christian Hills Church, 9001 W. 159th St., Orland Hills
ETC: Featuring Renea Taylor, Beth Benda, Sydney Lach and Abby Randall