So he called his friends, who called a radio station and posted an invite on Facebook: At 9 p.m., Cloud was going to clean out the semi-circle where the women’s fellowship finished up their weekly Bible study and use its speakers to blast the incessant percussive sounds of go-go.
Ushers would play bouncers to tend to the flock who’d inevitably show up to shimmy to the funk sound that Brown created and the region called its own. They’d warn people not to curse, smoke or drink in a place devoted to the presence of God. It was their music, but this was still His House.
“I know some people might be upset at this idea,” Cloud said as “Bustin’ Loose” played over the speakers. “But this church is for the community. I could talk conservative, but look at what’s going on.”
In front of him, men and women of all ages were singing along to Brown’s guttural voice, while popping their backs and bopping their heads. Pink and green neon lights illuminated the darkened worship auditorium, casting a shadow on the typical guitar and drum set that typically lead the service.
On a typical Sunday, there are about 1,500 people at a service. On Wednesday night, there were 2,000 to honor the godfather of go-go.
They waved their hands high. They dropped their booties low. Men held women by the hips and they shook their shoulders together, oblivious to a plastic bin, tucked in a corner, filled with Bibles.
Beads of sweat dripped down 48-year-old Carlton Miller’s face as he swayed to the sound, one armoutstretched and limp, his elastic legs bending to the red carpet. Brown had a relationship with this church — he had visited several times and once played for the pastor’s birthday. A quarter of the worship songs each Sunday are typically set to a go-go beat, at a place that bills itself as a church for the unchurched.
And Miller was certainly unchurched before he started attending, growing up in the projects in Alexandria and running with gangs. When Brown came to deejay, “there was simply peace.”
“He had a saying, “If there’s a fight, good night,’’ Miller said. “So we didn’t fight. We didn’t want the music to end. It’s a music that brought our community together.”
Outside, a line of at least 50 waited to get into the church while a bouncer shouted “We’re at capacity!”
A man walked around selling $10 “R.I.P.” Chuck Brown T-shirts. A woman with her hair dyed red started singing “Run Joe” while doing the running man. The parking lot , as gravelly as Brown’s voice, pulsated with groups of people reminiscing about the great moments set to a Chuck Brown beat.
“The best moments? Sneaking into clubs at 15 to see him!’’ 27-year-old Toya Cook recalled to her group of friends.