As a high school senior, Sherrisse Bryant missed competing in the state track championships because of a torn knee ligament, had to attend night class in addition to regular classes in order to graduate and mourned when her grandmother died.

“Going through that tough time made me depend on God,” Bryant said. “During those times my faith grew the strongest.”

Bryant, 27, is still relying on faith as she finishes her last year for a doctorate in chemistry, while serving as a licensed minister at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church in Baton Rouge, starting a choir and living away from her husband who teaches middle school social studies in Tallahassee, Fla. He was unable to find a job in Baton Rouge.

Bryant, who grew up in Tallahassee in a faith-based home attending church with her mother and grandmother, said she relies on her faith to see her through everything.

The newly created gospel collegiate choir at Bethel, which Bryant leads, is an extension of that faith, she said.

The group was envisioned by Bethel’s pastor, the Rev. Herman Kelly, as a choir for students of all faiths, races and student bodies.

“Sherrisse has been the eyes and the ears and the grass-roots efforts,” Kelly said. “She ran with it.”

Joyce Louden, a member of the Steward Board at Bethel, said Bryant is “doing an excellent job in organizing the choir.

“We’re excited about this choir,” Louden said. “We’re looking forward to them serving us and us serving them.”

But Bryant said her job has been easy. She organizes people and keeps everyone on track. She said she hasn’t had to juggle much, because others have been so helpful.

It isn’t a big commitment, Bryant said, it is a rewarding one.

“You’re getting your fun in, you get your socializing in and you’re also getting your spiritual side fed,” she said.

The choir’s debut will come during a black history service scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday at the church, 1358 South St. in Baton Rouge.

Music has been a part of Bryant’s life since she was little. She was in chorus in elementary and middle school and in gospel choir during high school and undergraduate school.

Now a graduate student, she’s leading praise and worship every Sunday and forming the gospel collegiate choir.

“I started and I never stopped,” Bryant said. “Music ministers to me. Sometimes the words to a song can speak directly to you.”

When Bryant leaves LSU, she hopes to eventually become a scientific researcher or a professor, but in either case intends to remain involved in ministry.

“Just being a good teacher and mentor in the classroom, I’m helping you get to the next stage of your life,” she said. “And that’s part of my ministry.”