Mary Haynes

Mary Haynes will be the guest psalmist at Fontana's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Jan. 18.

For those who know Mary Haynes, or anyone else who asks, her story is no secret.

Wherever she goes, she readily shares her painful past in hopes that someone can benefit from her missteps, and learn the way out.

Haynes, who performed professionally as an R&B artist, got off the musical and spiritual path that she grew up within the church, only to end up trapped in a decades-long battle with drug abuse.

Now clean for 15 years, she understands what led to the dark places and what it takes to escape the depths of a 28-year addiction.

The biggest part of what got her through her struggle for sobriety is that she never denied her faith, she said. Many people didn’t know that she was on drugs.

“My life is a story I tell everywhere I go,” she said. “I was never a closet person, but I always let everyone know that I loved the Lord, that I was just going through a struggle.”

Today, she gives back what she’s learned and gained in her journey through song and praise. Everything around her life, especially the hard times, has strengthened her dedication to gospel music. She writes most of the songs she sings, and says it’s the place where she finds comfort.

She sings her life.

“A lot of things that I’ve done, and the places that I’ve been, that’s what my psalms are about,” she said, adding that she wrote “I Got to Make it Somehow” to shed light on her way back to sobriety.

She tried all kinds of methods to break free. “When a person has been on drugs, no matter what you do it’s not going to work. No matter how much your family fights for you," she said.

Once her mind was made up, she was able to emerge. In December 2004, she woke up one morning resolute. She wanted her parents to see her free.

“You name it, I’ve been through it. I always share my story and I think that’s why God continues to bless me, elevate me and move me,” she said.

On Jan. 18, Haynes will be the guest psalmist at a special event in Fontana. Justice activist Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II will be the featured speaker at the city's free Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. Hosted by Pastor Emory James of Ephesians New Testament Church and the City of Fontana, the event will be held at 3 p.m. at Westside Baptist Church, located at 15006 Randall Avenue. Seating is limited; call (909) 823-2319 for tickets.

Haynes has known Pastor James and his wife since her early teens, and she is delighted to participate at the upcoming event.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it, I love Dr. King,” she said. “He stood for the rights of everybody.”

Haynes started singing in the church at six years old, where her late father, who passed away two years ago, was a renowned pastor. Her father had later hired her to play for the choir. She was a quick study, and a natural. Even as a child, people would come around her to hear and see her play.

But she said that much of her psalms and message today revolves around the harder spaces, and how she has been released from bondage through Jesus Christ.

These days, she said being church psalmist carries responsibility. She guides the rhythm of the church, assists the pastor who shepherds the church, and helps directs the flow of service. She keys into the anointing of the Spirit, and praise is the highest calling.

She said it’s all about winning souls and for people to find comfort to return back to God. She also prepares for service by arranging whatever songs she may have planned to sing, which she usually doesn’t know until the last minute.

“Sometimes you have to wait till you get there. The Spirit will flow and you have to find out what the church needs,” she said. “I still can’t explain it, the anointing comes over me.”

She counts it her greatest privilege to share the Gospel, and use her talents to reach the hard to reach, some who are no doubt dealing with the same struggle that is behind her.

“I know a lot of people, and people that I bump into in church. A lot of people are gone, and I’m still here. I’m on a mission, I understand my ministry now,” she said.

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