MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The 114th COGIC convention is preparing to come to a close in the coming days after returning to Memphis for the first time in more than 10 years.

A familiar sound of praise and worship has returned to the halls of the Renasant Convention Center, marking the return of the Church of God In Christ’s Holy Convocation.

“They say you can’t go back home,” Janet George-Morris said. “Yes you can, you can go back home.”

After 10 years of the event being held in St. Louis, and recently being canceled due to the pandemic, organizers signed a three-year agreement to bring the convocation back to Memphis.

“People are just glad to see each other. They’re glad to be back in-person, glad to see colleagues they haven’t seen in years,” said COGIC COO Keith Keyshawn. “Of course, that means we have seen a few empty chairs.”

Organizers expect that, over a week, nearly 25,000 could attend the conference, which tourism officials tell WREG translates to $33 million and a huge boost for local vendors like Latico Cole.

“We been here since Tuesday, started at 7 a.m. every day and end about 2 a.m. the next day,” Cole said. “So, hey, it’s constantly flowing, nonstop. I wouldn’t miss it again for the world.”

Given the amount of people in attendance and today’s climate in the world, organizers decided to increase security which is made up of law enforcement agencies across the area.

“Religious groups tend to be soft targets and so we do have, this year, a bit more security than we normally have in the past. It’s not that we have any exception that things will go wrong, we just wanted to be prepared,” Keyshawn said.

As the festivities prepare to come to a close, attendees say they are leaving Memphis with a full heart.

“The Holy Ghost has been present, so we’ve been having a good time in the lord,” Agatha Carter said.

“We yearn to get back here, and now that we are back, we want to better Memphis and ourselves,” Morris said.

The convocation formally ends on Tuesday. Organizers say no final decision has been made about its location once this three-year contract is up.