Shirley Caesar

Gospel icon and pastor Shirley Caesar comes to Waco for a Saturday night concert at Second Missionary Baptist Church.

Silver is normally the metal of choice for a 25th wedding anniversary, but forgive Waco pastor Nika Davis and his wife, Beverly, for choosing gold — Grammy Award gold — for their choice of celebration.

That gold comes in the person of Pastor Shirley Caesar, the Grammy Award-winning “first lady of gospel,” who will be singing — and maybe preaching a little — in a public concert Saturday night at the Davises’ church, Second Missionary Baptist Church.

Davis and his wife will renew their vows for their 25th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, supported by their church, they are bringing in Caesar for a public concert. The two had met the gospel singer and pastor personally during a gospel music cruise last year, he said, and were impressed as much by her personal ministry.

Caesar led a small group session on ministering to the elderly through the church, a message with which Davis resonated as the Waco pastor welcomed his 99-year-old father to live with his family last year.

“Shirley Caesar is one of our favorite gospel artists,” Davis said. “She has 11 Grammy Awards, seven Dove Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but particularly she’s a woman of God.”

Caesar, 78, started singing at an early age in her hometown of Durham, North Carolina. The 10th of 12 children, she grew up in a household of music with her father, a tobacco worker, heading a gospel quartet Just Came Four. She sang with the group when she was 10, and by 13 had her first recording, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”

After high school, Caesar gravitated to Chicago, where she began singing with female gospel group the Caravans, whose members included gospel great Albertina Walker. Caesar developed a style of breaking into a short sermon in the middle of a song while with the Caravans and still often blends singing with preaching.

During her illustrious career as a gospel singer and pastor, Caesar has collaborated with the likes of the Rev. James Cleveland and, more recently, Bishop T.D. Jakes. She won the first of 11 Grammys in 1971 with her recording “Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man From Galilee,” and she has some 40 albums to her credit.

She also has balanced music with the work of a pastor, sharing pastoring duties at the Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, Bishop Harold I. Williams. He died in 2014, but Caesar has continued her work with the church.

The married journey that the Davises have been on for 25 years started when they met at Second Missionary Baptist Church. That journey includes three children, son Nika Jr. and daughters Samayim and Shekinah, plus pastorates at her home church of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Nacogdoches and, since 2003, Waco’s Second Missionary Baptist Church.

“Putting Christ at the center makes all the difference,” said the pastor, who is looking forward to Caesar’s performance Saturday.

“She’s just a firecracker for God. Even at 80 years old, there is power in her singing voice,” Davis said.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor