Benson Great Hall hosted the annual celebration, featuring gospel music and faith stories in preparation for the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. 

By Abby Petersen

Bethel hosted the 19th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, welcoming NFL players and musical artists to Benson Great Hall, including rapper Snoop Dogg, who is planning to release his first gospel album this year.

“Thank y’all for having me on y’all campus,” Snoop Dogg told The Clarion on the red carpet in the Olson Gallery before the event. “It’s my first time but it won’t be my last time.”

The event closed Benson and the Underground to the community for four days in preparation for the concert, which included inspirational messages from NFL players, gospel music and awards. The event is the only NFL-sanctioned inspirational concert for Super Bowl weekend. The concert is held at a venue in the Super Bowl host city each year. This year, Bethel played that role.

Lakewood Church associate pastor John Gray and Nigerian-American actress Yvonne Orji co-hosted this year’s celebration. Gray serves under Joel Osteen at the Texas church.

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter were both in attendance. Carter was elected in 2017, making him the first African-American mayor of the city.

“It’s great that Bethel is hosting,” Carter said Thursday. “I was really glad when I heard that they had chosen this as our site. I’m totally excited about tonight. We have deep music, and specifically gospel music, traditions right here in the Twin Cities metro area.”

NFL players including Jameis Winston, Eric Reid and Gerald McCoy were scheduled to share faith stories. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was awarded the 2018 Faith in Action Award at the event. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald received the 2018 Lifetime of Inspiration Award. Music artists included Faith Evans, Mary Mary and Sounds of Blackness.

Singer Faith Evans poses for photos on the red carpet Feb. 1. | Photo by Abby Petersen

Snoop Dogg’s performance in the event was not announced until Jan. 24. Campus ministries dean Laurel Bunker posted on Facebook Jan. 25 that people think “Bethel is going to hell for allowing this man on stage at Bethel.”

Snoop Dogg poses with event hosts Yvonne Orji and John Gray. | Photo by Abby Petersen

Melanie Few, the founder of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, responded to such beliefs, and said that Snoop Dogg is the first “secular” artist who has been invited to perform at the event – a change she’s excited about.

“I know people that sing about Christ, talk about Christ every day and don’t do anything for God’s children,” Few said. “And that’s what kinda convinced me to say, ‘You know what? I’m open. I’m not perfect either.’”

The rapper’s album, Snoop Dogg Presents the Bible of Love, is set to release later this year.

“The record’s all about love from start to finish,” Snoop Dogg said. “That’s the way you change the world, by putting love in it.”

Additional reporting by Beret Leone


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