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Bright Future: Students use music as church ministry

Vidalia High School ninth-grade student Justin Lewis, left, and Adams County Christian School eleventh-grade student Natalie Russell participate in the Parkway Baptist Church worship team. Lewis plays the drums and Russell sings. The two are the only high school students that are apart of the team. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Vidalia High School ninth-grade student Justin Lewis, left, and Adams County Christian School eleventh-grade student Natalie Russell participate in the Parkway Baptist Church worship team. Lewis plays the drums and Russell sings. The two are the only high school students that are apart of the team. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Natalie Russell and Justin Lewis use their God-given talents to spread the word of the Lord through music.

The two area students participate in the Parkway Baptist Church worship team by singing in the choir and playing the drums, respectively.

The worship team is responsible for leading worship during the Sunday morning service and is lead by music minister Jonathan Magee.

Having Russell and Lewis on the team, Magee said, is a true blessing.

“Parkway wants to be a church where we help people find their God-given talents and give them ways to use them, and Natalie and Justin are helping us lead worship by using their talents,” Magee said. “Having two people their age who are able and willing to do this speaks volumes for their character.”

Russell, who sings, and Lewis, who plays the drums, joined the worship team after Magee encouraged them to attend a summer camp at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.

The Baptist camp offered musical classes in which both teens participated.

“The camp helped me vocally,” Russell said. “It helped me to perform better and taught me not to be afraid to share my talents.”

Even though Lewis also enjoyed a video production class, the music class he enrolled in was still his favorite part of the camp experience.

Specifically, the class helped Lewis learn more about playing grooves on the drums.

Russell and Lewis began their music careers long before attending the OBU camp or joining the worship team at Parkway.

Russell started singing with her grandfather at a young age and fell in love with it while a member of the children’s choir at Parkway.

“I started singing (in children’s choir), and I haven’t stopped since,” Russell said.

Although Lewis has been playing the drums for as long as he can remember, the first time he joined a band was in the sixth grade at Vidalia Junior High School.

“My momma said I had a beat when I was first born,” Lewis said. “She said I beat on everything, so she just bought me a drum.”

Even though both students enjoy participating in the worship team, they hope more teenagers will join the group in the future.

Currently, Russell and Lewis are the only high-school students who are part of the team, which Magee said is a positive thing overall for the church.

“Here at Parkway, we want to promote intergenerational worship and not only give adults leadership opportunities, but also give the students and children a chance at those opportunities,” Magee said. “It’s very valuable to me to find young people that have been gifted and are talented and be able to serve.

“I think having (Russell and Lewis) here excited the adults to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got young people involved to.’”

Magee said he’s enjoyed watching Russell and Lewis grow through their experience.

“They’re becoming disciplined by coming to rehearsal every week and gaining confidence by being in front of people,” Magee said. “As their talent continues to improve, they’re going to continue to developing those skills.”

When she’s not singing, Russell is involved in Key Club, Honor Society, Beta Club and Class Council. Lewis also plays drums in the Vidalia High School band.

Russell, a junior at Adams County Christian School, is the daughter of Jason and Danielle Russell. Lewis, a freshman at Vidalia High School, is the son of Herbert and NickieBruce Lewis.

Teenagers interested in joining the worship team can contact Magee at 601-442-7434.

The team leads the congregation in worship at 10:45 a.m. each Sunday.