MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The saints, or members of the Church of God in Christ, have made their annual pilgrimage back to Memphis this week for their 115th Holy Convocation.
Over 35,000 people from all 50 states and several other countries are in their spiritual home city for prayer, worship and business.
“We are just giving God glory, giving God praise and learning a whole lot,” said church member T.J. Hayes Jr. “When the saints come to town, it’s such a great event. Not only are the saints getting together, but they’re able to come to the local restaurants.”
After an 11-year absence when the convention moved to St. Louis, COGIC’s convocation returned to Memphis last year.
“We want our young people and others to not only experience COGIC, but experience COGIC in Memphis. So, this is our mecca. This is our place of beginning. It is our home. Memphis will always be that,” said Bishop Brandon Porter.
The thousands of visitors mean a big boost for the Memphis economy, and the city spent millions to renovate the Renasant Convention Center and place down the welcome mat for COGIC members.
“A lot of the improvements of that $230 million transformation that took place a few years ago was really in anticipation of bringing COGIC back to Memphis,” said Memphis Tourism President and CEO Kevin Kane. “We have succeeded, and now we have to keep them here. I think their experience the last couple of years has been positive.”
COGIC members will be staying at Memphis hotels and dining at area restaurants, but over the years, some saints had complained about possible price gauging.
“I think most of the delegates whose rooms were secured well in advance with pre-negotiated rates at most of our hotels around the city, so I don’t think there’s any price gauging,” Kane said. “The Church of God in Christ saw all the rates of all hotels that were being offered, and a lot of that goes through the housing block that they control.”
“We’re just asking the hotels, come on, I know it’s peak season because of supply and demand and the restaurants, don’t jack up the prices. We eat a lot and be accommodating for us. We want the convention to stay here,” Bishop Porter said.
It’s estimated the COGIC convocation, which officially began Tuesday, will pump almost $40 million into the Memphis economy.