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Black Church Services

Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 08:46 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 08:54 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 09:02 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 09:36 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 09:51 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 09:53 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 09:57 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 10:19 AM
sian, west wales 14 Jan 09 - 10:21 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 10:39 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 10:55 AM
wysiwyg 14 Jan 09 - 11:39 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 01:34 PM
Azizi 14 Jan 09 - 03:25 PM
Azizi 15 Jan 09 - 08:55 AM
Azizi 15 Jan 09 - 09:00 AM
Azizi 15 Jan 09 - 09:02 AM
Azizi 15 Jan 09 - 09:10 AM
wysiwyg 15 Jan 09 - 09:17 AM
Azizi 15 Jan 09 - 09:21 AM
Azizi 15 Jan 09 - 09:31 AM
Azizi 15 Jan 09 - 09:40 AM
Azizi 15 Jan 09 - 09:44 AM
wysiwyg 15 Jan 09 - 11:51 PM
Azizi 17 Jan 09 - 10:46 PM
Azizi 17 Jan 09 - 11:29 PM
Azizi 17 Jan 09 - 11:51 PM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 12:08 AM
Nick E 18 Jan 09 - 01:20 AM
wysiwyg 18 Jan 09 - 09:53 AM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 10:28 AM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 10:30 AM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 10:58 AM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 11:07 AM
LilyFestre 18 Jan 09 - 11:16 AM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 11:21 AM
Ref 18 Jan 09 - 11:32 AM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 11:42 AM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 11:52 AM
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Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 12:17 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 18 Jan 09 - 12:59 PM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 01:15 PM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,Dani 18 Jan 09 - 02:08 PM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 02:39 PM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 02:45 PM
LilyFestre 18 Jan 09 - 05:57 PM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 08:46 PM
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Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 09:39 PM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 10:21 PM
LilyFestre 18 Jan 09 - 10:42 PM
Azizi 18 Jan 09 - 10:47 PM
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katlaughing 19 Jan 09 - 01:33 PM
Stringsinger 19 Jan 09 - 02:10 PM
Azizi 19 Jan 09 - 11:30 PM
Azizi 20 Jan 09 - 12:19 AM
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Azizi 20 Jan 09 - 12:55 AM
GUEST,Dani 20 Jan 09 - 06:58 AM
Azizi 20 Jan 09 - 08:14 AM
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Azizi 20 Jan 09 - 09:36 AM
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Subject: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 08:46 AM

The purpose of this discussion is to share commentary about Black* church services. The purpose of this thread is also to share links to online videos of Black church services.

This thread grew out of this Mudcat thread:

Jerry R's 'Black/White Gospel Workshop

I consider that discussion thread, and other Mudcat threads about Spirituals and Gospel music to be companion threads to this one.

I'm starting a new discussion instead of adding these types of comments on that "Black/White Gospel Workshop" thread or other archived Mudcat threads because I want to focus on the presentation of information and links to videos about the characteristics of Black church services, and not strictly on a presentation of information or a comparison of music forms found in those churches. In doing so, it's my hope that this discussion will be easier to find for Mudcatters and for other interested individuals who may be trying to find such information or commentary online.

I hope that this thread becomes more than just me posting comments about and links to videos on this topic. I hope that other Mudcat members and guests will also post information & commentary about Black church services, including their memories of Black church services. I also hope that other people besides me will post links to online videos of Black church services.

Thank you, in advance, for reading this thread. And thanks for your participation in this discussion.

*For the purpose of this thread, "Black" means a person of any degree of Black African descent. That said, most of my comments and most of my examples will be from African American religious experiences, as that is my racial group, and therefore it is the racial group that I know the best.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 08:54 AM

One feature of traditional African American churches that appears to have received very little attention in online discussions, is the practice of choir {and other group} processionals.

The processional occurs at the beginning of a church service. The choir {or a particular church group honored at that particular service} walks or marches down the center aisle of the church. This marks the formal beginning of the church service.

Immediately prior to the beginning of the church processional, the congregation stands, and faces forward. The congregation can sing along with the choir. However, they cannot join the processional.

Here is "A traditional baptist church standard: the choir procession. This is the Second Free Mission Baptist Church Mass Choir in 1994 in New Orleans, LA."

Sunday Morning Baptist Church Choir Processional


Usually the choir sings as they "march" into the worship area. However, a processional can be done to live, instrumental music only.

Here's an example of a single file processional to organ music with no singing until the entire choir gets to the choir stand. The processional is done to "The Battle Hymn of The Republic"

New Hope Baptist Church Choir March In

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 09:02 AM

Continuation of comments about Black Church Processionals:

Sometimes the church processionals is done in single file, but often the choir or church group marches into the worship area in pairs. The choir usually marches to their seats which are typically behind the pastor/s who sit on a podium. When a church group marches into the worship service, they usually are seated in front row seats behind the deacons and/or the deaconess.*

If there are two entrances to the choir seats when they near that podium, as they continue marching and singing, one choir member moves to the left up to the choir stand while the other member of that pair moves to the right up to the choir stand.

First Baptist Church Men & Women's Day March In

[This processional appears to be done by the women's group during the church's men and women's day service]


At least at my home church, at the end of the church service, the pastor/s, followed by the deacons, who are followed by the deaconess, who are followed by the choir/s, walk in pairs down the center aisle in time to a congregational song.

In the church I attended as a child/teen in Atlantic City, New Jersey and which I still attend when I go home to visit my family, there is a fixed order to the exit from the church service:

The pastor is joined by his wife, who is seated in the third row of the church behind the deacons. Then come the other pastor/s in pairs or paired by the head deacon. Then come the other deacons in pairs. The deacons are followed by pairs of deaconness, who are followed by pairs of choir members. Then starting from the front, the congregation leaves the church room though not only by way of the center aisle.

In "my" church, the deaconess are usually married to a deacon. Deaconness sit in the front rows on the right hand side, and the deacons sit in the front rows, on the left hand side of the church. The two head deacons sit on the side of the church in the front. Only the church pastors and any invited guests pastors sit on the podium.]

In my opinion, the exit from the church service doesn't have the same "pagentry" that the processional does {at least at my home church-with home church meaning the church I grew up in. I'm not a church goer where I live so I can't give first hand information about the church services here.

However, my daughter is a member of a very large Black Baptist church in Pittsburgh, PA. She told me that the choirs are seated behind the pastor at the beginning of the church services. They don't do processionals or end of church service exit marches.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 09:36 AM

On two occassions within the last two years at my church in New Jersey, I had the pleasure of seeing a choir processional that was led by an older man. I believe this man is a church usher, but I'm not sure about that.

This man led the paired choir members down the center aisle. he didn't march, but strutted like the lead drum major in a parade, but without any baton or anything else in his hands. While the choir members sang behind him, this man was silent. When the choir members moved up behind the pastor to stand in front of their seats, this processional leader remained standing in front of the offering table that was placed directly below the pastor's podium. The processional leader stood in place, but still moved to the rhythm of the song, beaming his pride and his joy.

I should mention that this man was not tall, or well built or otherwise physically impressive looking. Yet in those moments, he definitely looked impressive.

The last time I visited my home church, when that same processional leader passed where I was standing, he caught me smiling at him.,and nodded his head at me as if to say "Yes, isn't this great". And then he kept on struttin down the aisle.

I think this man knew that he was carrying on a very old tradition, one that could probably be traced all the way back to African religious and secular processionals. Long may they continue!

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 09:51 AM

Here are two links to YouTube videos of contemporary Christian church processionals in Africa:

The Choir marching into the church

"The choir in Namibe always marches into the church in the morning before they take their places in their benches up front every Sunday. I am the white"


This country is probably Namibia.

The Choir Entrance

"Every sunday, the youth choir marches in. I found it quite amusing. The choir director is in white robes. Enjoy the "


These videos were posted by different individuals. The first poster identified the country where the video was filmed. The second video contributor did not identify the country. Unfortunately, there is no mention in the comments of which country this is or when it was filmed.

The YouTube page for that video contributor identifies her as being from Canada. Imo, her comments seem to identify her as a rather culturally insensitive tourist.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 09:53 AM

Sorry, here's the hyperlink for that first video of an African processional that is mentioned in my previous post:

The Choir marching into the church

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 09:57 AM

For comparison purposes, I went looking for online videos of church processionals of Anglo, and majority Anglo choirs. However, I've not yet found any.

However, here's an example of a processional done by a gospel choir from Switzerland:

bless the lord - choir entrance

Note that the choir doesn't move to the beat of the music as Black choirs do in our processionals.

Fwiw, I like the sound and the presentation of this choir.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 10:19 AM

Here are some links to a few other videos of African American choir processionals:

Gospel Choir Song - I Love to Praise Him

"General Assembly Apostolic National Youth Choir, Presiding Pastor - Bishop J Downie. This was recorded at our Holy Convocation May 2006
Gospel Song I Love to Praise Him - Marvin Sapp"


Choir Entrance

"Price AME 60th Anniversary Service
Sunday, 9.16.07"

[This processional is done to live organ music and tamborines. At first glance, the choir members look like they are just walking up to the choir stand. But if you continue looking, you can see that they are actually moving to the beat. Other videos that I've viewed of this church show this particular custom of the choir standing facing right before they face forward and sing. I'm not sure why this is. This video also includes a clip of the choir and congregation singing the hymn "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow".

This song appears to have been the first congregational song sung in a number of Black Christian church services. However, nowadays "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" isn't necessarily sung at the beginning of the Black {Baptist} church services, or at any other time in the church service.


That said, as a reminder, I'm posting these links to videos with a focus on the traditions of Black church processionals, and other church customs, and not as examples of particular songs.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: sian, west wales
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 10:21 AM

Hi Azizi, and happy New Year!

I wonder if the processional thing is more a denominational custom, rather than an ethnic/racial one?

The processionals as you have described them are completely familiar to me, and are the 'norm' for most of the Protestant churches in my home town of Port Colborne. Well, the ones I know of anyway: United Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church, and Anglican. Having said that, I couldn't vouch for other congregations in other communities, but of those same denominations: it might be one of those customs adopted in some communities and not others, and not dictated by any central authority. Now I think of it, in my days in the church choir, we didn't always "procede" - we sometimes slipped in the 2 doors at the side of the sanctuary. I think maybe it was a) dictated in part by the wishes of the Minister and b) dependent on whether or not a Sunday was something important like Easter or Advent or similar.

In Wales, non-conformist and methodist chapels don't have processionals simply because they don't have choirs. I think the Church in Wales services start with a processional ...

Sorry - didn't mean to vere the discussion from Black Church Services. Just wanted to work out what may or may not be unique to various communities. I'm looking forward to seeing what develops here.


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 10:39 AM

Hello, sian! And Happy New Year to you too.

I'm glad that this conversion will include comments about non-Black church processionals.

I confess [no pun intended] that I only know about the processionals in Black American Baptist churches. But choir processionals may also tradionally occur in AME, AMEZ, and COGIC churches {African Methodist Episcopal; African Methodist Episcopal Zion; and Church of God In Christ}. And they may also be done in Black churches of other demoninations.

I intend to search for online articles about Black church services, in general, as well as for online articles about Black and non-Black choir processionals. If I find such articles, I'll post their links in this thread.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 10:55 AM

Here are links to two YouTube videos that I just found of
Anglo-American church processionals:

Jazz Mass, Processional Hymn

"Jazz Mass, Processional Hymn, "All Are Welcome In This Place"… Redeemer's annual Jazz Mass is held on the last Sunday before Lent. It is our Mardi Gras celebration before the contemplative season of Lent begins."


Easter Lily Processional 2006

"Since 1940s, the tradition of Lily Procession on Easter Sunday continues at First United Methodist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas. This video was taken on April 16, 2006. Music: Pilgrims' Chorus by Richard Wagner".

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: wysiwyg
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 11:39 AM

An African American woman told me of a practice she recalled from her childhood that little girls in her church were given flowers to put behind their ears-- my memory is fuzzy buit it may have been at confirmation time-- and that some girls were given white flowers, and some red. The color indicated those girls whose mothers were not living. The little girls were not told in advance what the colors meant; they were codes for the adults to know which girls needed a little extra prayer, and mothering, I think. This was her personal experience as an orphan, shared as an emotional memory, so I did not ask about the cultural underpinnings.

At a workshop on the spirituals I gave last summer, an elderly attendee (an African American and a leader in our denomination) wanted me to know and let others know that the spontaneous, non-arranged musical style of singing them continues "to this day" in what he referred to as "The Black Church." You can hear that, of course, in venues online as I have posted about in other threads for many years. As I have heard them sung in that manner, it has seemed to be more true of the smaller (rural) churches than the larger churches that draw from the larger urban populations. I look forward to discussing that with him further when I next see him.

I have also been told that the style preferences have been connected to socioeconomic class characteristics/cultural preferences.

I saw a comment, in another thread about "Singing Black," that I will address here because my contribution to that discussion is entirely based on the several hymnals I have that were developed for and from "The Black Church." Some of them are absolutely adamant that one must sing the songs in the Black dialect as contained in the book. Some of them are absolutely adamant that they must NOT be sung in dialect. My conclusion is that there is no "right way" but that in different eras there have been different prejudices, and different preferred manners of approaching those prejudices. These are likely to continue to be different in different times, I think.

I'm just grateful that the music itself has had the ability (the power) to transcend ALL of that. And I dearly look forward to an opportunity to attend church next week with friends with whom our parish has a number of connections, which I know they consider a Black Church. The last time I was there (for an ordination), the service was as formal as formal could be, but it still had an air of spontaneity and "let's have some fun here today" that was not hidden under the formality. :~) I also recall the number of small children relaxedly lounging on adults' laps throughout the service; in our own parish of older folks we lack the young-family population this particular neighborhood serves, and we also lack the relaxed welcome and inclusion of children in that particular way.

But I cannot say that it was a characteristic of the Black church-- it was just how that parish was, to me. And it's how our Saturday Night Service is, though it's generally not known to be part of The Black Church.... but I suppose in some ways, it is, since it's got definite strains of the multicultural relationships and experiences Hardi and I have had in our lives.

So I do look forward to being with that parish for a morning. And that leads me to my final contribution to this thread, and that is that The Black Church as I have known it has doors that are wide open to folks who appreciate diversity and who come as friends. Any chance to attend one is bound to be a good time.


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 01:34 PM

Susan, thanks for your comments.

With regard to singing in African American spirituals in 19th so-called Black dialect {the "dees, dos, dem" languaging that is referred to on a recent Mudcat thread on minstrelsy}, the first point I would make is that imo, African Americans are not traditionalist. What I mean by this is that ,imo, we are much more interested in innovation than keeping to old traditions. Vernacular words and phrases are constantly being updated, and created by Black Americans, and we discard many slang terms much faster than Anglo-Americans. This is one of the reasons why 19th century so-called Black dialect is rarely used nowadays by Black spiritual singers. It seems to me that fewer spirituals are being sung by church choirs these days, partly for the reason I already cited, but also because these songs are inextricably linked to the still very painful history of slavery, and of mainstream culture's demeaning attitudes toward Black people both during slavery and after slavery's abolishment. This is particularly the case when those songs are sung with what minstrel's called Black dialect. It's difficult enough for Black people to hear spirituals sung in that dialect, but to hear 19th century and earlier slave dance songs and minstrel songs that to a large extent were based on Black songs, well, let me just say it's deeply offensive.

I can say without any doubt that I've never heard those songs sung that way in my church or any other African American church or any Black community program that I've ever attended or heard about.

In my opinion, the language that is used in these songs mirrors the informal language that is in current use now. For instance, instead of singing "Ringa dem Bells", usually the song is given as "Ringa Them Bells". And instead of using the long retired word "gwine", we use "gonna" [as in "Gonna get to heaven in the mornin'} Note the word "heaven" is used instead of "heaben". Also note that the word "mornin' is clipped as Black and non-Black folks still sometimes use that pronunciation in everyday, informal conversations.

The song "Couldn't hear nobody pray" and the phrase "Aint that good news" are two additional examples of how the retention of AAVE might appear to be somewhat arbitrary until you factor in the adherence to the vernacular language that Black folks use today. "Couldn't hear nobody pray" hasn't been changed to "Couldn't hear anybody pray" and
"Aint that good news" hasn't been changed to Isn't that good news.

[See this song and others on, a site which in my opinion, unfortunately not only continues to use the retired referent Negro, but fails to capitalize it in its comments]
{The Mudcat hyperlink feature isn't working. I'll add the hyperlink when that feature returns.]

I can understand why "Negro" isn't capitalized in that website's URL, but can't understand why it's not capitalized in that website's commentary. After all, for more than 40 years the standard practice in the USA anyway has been to capitalize the word "Negro" {whereas there is some flexibility as to whether the group referent "Black" should be capitolized. I capitolize this word when it is used as a racial referent, and a number of other people do also. But some people, Black and non-Black, do not capitalize it.

While I'm on the subject, the term "African American" is always capitalized. This is the formal referent for those people who were formerly called "Negro". "Black" is an informal referent for these same people, though "Black" refers to more people than "African American.


Lastly, Susan, I recall the practice of members of the congregation in my Black Baptist church {women, children} wearing corsages pinned to their dresses or shirts for Mother's Day. The white carnation corsages were for those whose mother had passed on. The red or pink corsages were for those whose mother is still living. Men wore smaller carnations pinned to their suit lapel.

This custom is still being held at my church {in New Jersey}.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 03:25 PM

Are Black church processionals a dying custom?

Although the choirs at my church still do processionals and recessionals {exit marches} at my church in New Jersey, march based on a number of comments from viewers of this video, this tradition is considered old school {an old custom, not part of contemporary church experiences}.

COGIC Mattie Clark Praise Ministry GE Patterson

"Dr. Mattie Moss Clark Sisters SW Michigan Choir On my way to Heaven"

Description, members of the church choirs march in processional to the organ music. The choir members sway from the right to the left as they move to the choir stand behind the pastor's podium. There is no date given for this video, but, based on the comments, it's more than ten years old.

Viewers' comments from this video:

"This is giving me serious flashbacks. You can't beat old school church. I remember being 14 year old and being the musician {piano, organ} that played for these ridiculously LONG choir processions. I look back on it now and miss the way that we had church".
-dseaberry nov 2008

"[You] Know that's old skool when the choir march in song is longer than the actual song.they are going to sing lol".
-3000 stickman; dec 2008

"Wow! It's a looooooong time since I've seen choirs march in".
Ladymwn8; July 2008

"Oh, Yes! I remember choir processionals! Man this brings back memories!!"
Blessedbythe beat; june 2008

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 08:55 AM

Here's the hyperlink for


Here is the Index Search For Song Lyrics.

That index has a number of songs such as "Dese bones gwine rise again" which are given in the old dialect that may have been used by some Black people and by some non-Black people in the 19th century, and which probably was exaggerated by minstrel performers.

My main point is that

1.when spirituals are sung in African American churces, they are sung in concert fashion as typified by these links to YouTube videos of "African American spirituals": Morgan State Univ. Choir-Ezekial Saw The Wheel and Howard Gospel Choir - "Deliver Daniel"

2. African American Vernacular English that is retained in the lyrics of spirituals nowadays, reflects contemporary usage and not 19th century usage. Therefore, a sung such as "Dese bones gwine rise again" would be sung as "These bones gonna rise again". Incidently, the "ah" ending in the word "ringa" is added to the word "ring" for rhythmic purposes and not because anyone talks like that.

3. It would be highly unlikely that any song with the "n word" is sung in Black churches or church related functions.


Unfortunately, it's also very rare to hear any spirituals sung in contemporary African American churches. See my next two posts for excerpts of two online articles that I found on changing Black church traditions.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 09:00 AM

Excerpts from

Forward on faith: The black church in the city
by David Briggs/Plain Dealer Religion Reporter
Saturday October 11, 2008, 8:00 PM

…"'We've got to quit looking back'

Sunlight streams through the stained-glass windows facing East 79th Street as soloist Evelyn Davis moves back and forth singing, "He's an on-time God. Yes, he is." The women's choir seamlessly blends in with the powerful affirmation, "On-time God. Yes, he is."

One by one, congregation members rise, and sway and clap with the music. Choir director Anita Caswell, who can be a flurry of raised arms and pumping fists when she feels more energy is needed, is beaming, moving in sync with the singers and the congregation.

She does not have to turn around to see the response from the pews. This morning, she knows the Holy Spirit is here.

These are the moments congregations like Emmanuel cherish, spirit-stirring worship that replenishes the pool of faith, which gives members the strength for daily living. It is the source they draw on for the volunteer effort to keep a church tradition in the city alive and to serve the neighborhood with programs from a weekly meal for the needy to computer literacy classes for youth.

Yet as the black church faces the challenges of the 21st century, tradition can be a stumbling block, observers say.

A generation raised on computers, iPods and video games expects more compelling musical and dramatic presentations. They demand the relaxed dress codes they find at work and public places such as theaters and restaurants.

…In the past, "No matter what happens, you went to mama's church. . . . Now mama and grandma are dying and the kids are gone," says the Rev. R.A. Vernon, pastor of The Word Church, a megachurch in Warrensville Heights. "Any church that doesn't catch the switch and make the shift is going to die."

For Emmanuel, making the shift could involve anything from welcoming young people in T-shirts to providing more preaching opportunities for women to offering more contemporary music.

Traditions die hard, however.

When Cobb came to Emmanuel, he replaced the Rev. Sterling Glover, who retired in 2006 after 42 years. The congregation skews dramatically older, with many members in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

Some of his first changes were cosmetic: painting the walls, polishing the pews and installing new lights to brighten the place.

Other changes, such as music programs that appeal to youth and a different dress code so newcomers will not feel like outsiders, will take time, he and church members acknowledge.

Janette Holland, who joined Emanuel in 1926 at age 10, still wears a hat and dress to Sunday worship because "I'm bringing my best to the master." But she, like other members, backs Cobb's efforts.

"We older women have to learn to accept the change. That's the hardest part," Holland says. "We've got to quit looking back." …

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 09:02 AM

My apologies for the black font.

I would appreciate it if a moderator would change the text of that post to regular font after the title "Forward on faith: The black church in the city"

Thaks in advance.


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 09:10 AM

Excerpt from

Black churches struggle to blend youth, tradition
Religion News Service • January 3, 2009

..."A battle between good and evil, God and Satan, is taking place at Emmanuel Baptist Church on Halloween night.

In the front of the sanctuary, teenage dancers act out a story of young people overcoming the temptations of the streets. One by one, they resist drugs, sexual advances and violence.

It is the first night of a weekend Youth Explosion, and a band blasts contemporary gospel music in the church on Cleveland's East Side.

The Rev. David Cobb Jr. knows that many older members consider this type of topic and style of worship too worldly for church. But he also knows that young people want a better balance in church life, from sermons that pay attention to the problems of youth to opportunities for dance, drama and contemporary worship...

But many of these churches find that a majority of their members live in the suburbs. The number of people with decades of ties to city churches and traditions is dwindling.

In a generation with fewer attachments to church than any in modern history, relaxed dress codes, expanded musical styles, increased participation in services by young people and the use of video screens and Web sites are no longer merely an option, many black church leaders say.

"If you don't change, you're going to be obsolete," says the Rev. Larry Macon of Mt. Zion Church of Oakwood Village, about 20 miles southeast of Cleveland. Cobb said he is challenging "sacred cows" in music and dress as fast as he can. He uses rap singers, praise dance teams and the Youth Explosion to reach young people in the neighborhood around his church...

The church recently hired a music minister for youth, and Cobb is thinking about adding more contemporary music on Sundays.

Among other plans are creating junior deacons and junior trustees so young people can have a say in the spiritual and administrative life of the church.

The changes cannot come too soon for Emmanuel's youth.

Jazmine Blue, 16, a member of the praise dance team, says when she tries to encourage her peers to come to church, they say, "No man, church is boring."

"I don't want to listen to a lot of older people with their old boring songs" all the time, she says...

The tension is not new. Gospel great Thomas Dorsey, who used the popular music styles of the 1930s to write such church standards as "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," once was labeled "too bluesy" for the church.

What gives the issue of music a special urgency, church observers say, is that one can no longer count on succeeding generations to come through church doors.

Pew Research Center surveys found only 14 percent of respondents ages 18 to 29 attended church more than once a week, half the percentage of those 50 and older.

In his grandparents' day, Cobb says, "Everybody went to church. Church was mandatory until you die." In his mother's day, that changed to "you had to go to church until you were 18, then it was strongly recommended."

"Today, it's basically you can go if you want to," Cobb says.

When they do go, they increasingly "church shop" rather than automatically attend where their parents and grandparents went.

For those churches who stay in the city, some in sanctuaries that date back 60 or 70 years, it is critical not to let traditions such as suits and ties for men and dresses for women get in the way, many church leaders say.

"You don't have to just have one way to praise him," Cobb declares to his congregation at the fall youth day service. "We are just happy to see young people today, praise God."


Therein lies the challenge for many black churches, where aging congregations confront a generation whose music, technology and dress clash with century-old traditions.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: wysiwyg
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 09:17 AM

My main point is that

1.when spirituals are sung in African American churces, they are sung in concert fashion as typified by these links to YouTube videos of "African American spirituals"

I would strongly disagree, from my own observations as well as those reported to me... as I said above. I would modify that statement to say that when spirituals are sung in African American churches and uploaded as YouTube videos, they are sung in concert fashion as typified by links to YouTube videos.

It's the same with our music program. There are AUDIO recordings of the Saturday Night service and its informal, spontaneous music. I have even recorded the principal, formal service (choir and organ). I can guarantee you, though, that the minute someone in hte parish proposes going to video for any purpose, the first focus will be recording the principal, formal service. The choir will be vested in their "best," and they'll be performing-- not hymn-leading-- a complicated choral arrangement. And the intended market for the cost and work of making the video will be church-shoppers, not musicologists or ethnologists. :~)


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 09:21 AM

Susan, we'll have to disagree on that point.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 09:31 AM

Here's an excerpt from a newspaper article about the photographic book "'Soul Sanctuary" which was produced by Jason Miccolo Johnson

Photographer captures the changing customs of black churches
By Vanessa E. Jones, Globe Staff
May 22, 2006

..."In addition to spotlighting churchgoers, Johnson's camera also inadvertently captured the changes in religious tradition. When the Rev. LeRoy Attles was a child, he remembers, parishioners were more conservative in their practice.' 'Years ago," says the St. Paul pastor, ''in some very conservative churches, when you said 'Amen ,'people would turn around and look at you. Today, unless it's a conservative church, you just won't see that."

On the Sunday of Johnson's second visit to St. Paul, some members of the congregation raise their hands skyward, shout out, and bob up and down as Attles gives his sermon. The faces featured in ''Soul Sanctuary" show a wide range of emotions. ''Today," says Attles, ''people are much more expressive . . . in their approach to God." meeting more needs...

Flipping through the pages of 'Soul Sanctuary," readers also become aware of the dramatic range in sizes of today's black churches. Johnson takes readers inside the intimate space of Jake's Chapel in Greenville, Miss. Buthe also shows the sprawling Ebenezer AME Church in Maryland, with its tiered movie theater seating and video screens behind the choir showing live shots of the service. The increasing size of the congregations and the churches that cater to them has spurred changes in church traditions.

When Johnson, a Memphis native, went to church as a child, he remembers only a few extracurricular opportunities for young people. They could sing in the choir or serve as an usher, he says. Now a church such as Charles Street offers an array of ministries: a nurse unit, a young adult network, and a Christian education department. The church just opened its Ruth Hamilton/Elta Garrett Music and Arts Academy, which helps children learn to read music as the public school system trims its music and arts education programs. ''There are a lot of needs out there that are being met through the church that we don't think about," says Johnson. ''I dare say if you close down the black church, the world would be much, much worse off."New sounds of worship It's in the area of performance where traditions have changed the most. The old-school clapping of hands and stomping of feet, which for centuries provided a cymbal- and drum-like accompaniment to choirs, have been replaced by real drums, guitars, and organs. In an effort to get younger people to feel more comfortable in church, says Johnson, churches are adding praise step teams, praise flag wavers, and liturgical dancers, like the four teens who perform their dance routine in flowing purple dresses just before Attles's sermon on the Sunday Johnson revisited St. Paul.

One change that bothers Groover is the increasing focus on praise and worship music, a genre exemplified by the songs of Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, and other contemporary artists. He worries that a new generation of churchgoers know nothing about traditional spirituals, such as ''Ain't Got Time to Die" and ''Ride On, King Jesus," that were first heard during slavery.' 'We're opting for the more contemporary music," says Groover, ''which I think is a wonderful genre. But, please, don't let us lose our music, the music the slaves, our forefathers, our foremothers, used to sing.

Groover tries to stay the change. His church is home to five choirs, including one that sings only traditional gospel. He rotates that choir with others that focus on anthem, baroque and classical, and urban contemporary music to avoid alienating his younger members.'' A church has to embrace contemporary music to remain alive," Groover says, ''otherwise they'll go to the grave."But he refuses to stand by and watch calmly as the appreciation of the old fades. ''A people," he says, ''will only be as strong as a people who appreciate their traditions.


[I made some slight changes in the format of this excerpt]

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 09:40 AM

Through my Internet search I also found this query [posted here with one response:

Help me learn the basics of the Black Gospel tradition
November 24, 2007 9:19 PM   

Growing up a white boy in a white Oklahoma church, we always had some small influence of the Gospel tradition, but always sanitized for the white tradition of our past. But when I listen to the old Black spirituals, it affects me like nothing in the Baptist church I grew up with: a sense of the spiritual and the passion that I never felt in my choirs. But where should I start to learn the basics?
posted by fishmasta to media & arts


If you're looking for traditional/"old-school" spirituals, your best bet is to find a smaller church with an older congregation, particularly in the Baptist, C.O.G.I.C. or A.M.E. denominations. A good portion of predominately black churches, especially larger ones, have switched to a more contemporary repertoire. However, the "spirit" and passion that you mention are still there, even though the songs are different.

From your question, I gather that you want to be an active participant (vs. a passive observer), as in, actually joining the choir. If this is the case, you might find a larger church to be more accepting.
posted by chara at 10:12 PM on November 24, 2007

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 09:44 AM

Here's another online interesting online question about the contemporary Black church {posted here with two responses}

Dawn Turner Trice: I'm curious to know how many of you have actually attended a "black church?" Let's take Rev. Jeremiah Wright out of the equation for a moment. Here's a bit of history:

Sunday morning worship service historically was the singular guaranteed place where African Americans could go to be somebody. They struggled to achieve "somebody-ness" on other days of the week. They fought invisibility on other days of the week. But Sunday morning was different.

The church was a refuge. Grandparents and mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts and all their children would put on their Sunday-go-to-meetings clothes and head to the church house. Women wore the wide-brimmed hats and long flowing dresses. Men wore crisp white shirts and ties. Children still smelled of the perfumes added to their Saturday night bath water.

Sunday morning gave people a level of dignity they couldn't find on any other day of the week. Monday through Friday, women and men may have worked jobs as janitors or maids, noble and respectable enough. But they had to deal with stuff that wasn't so noble or respectable---the indignity of being called "boy" or "girl," "auntie" or "uncle."

But on Sunday morning, even if just for a few hours, all of those indignities melted away. You could sit next to the black doctor, lawyer, or insurance man; the black teacher, social worker or plumber and know everybody understood what Monday through Friday was like. Nobody's job made them any less immune to indignities. Everybody needed his or her dose of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand." Here, parishioners could shout and sing and have his or her soul prepared for Monday through Friday. My grandmother called it, "Putting on God's body armor."

I've written before that there is quite a bit of diversity among black churches---that's true of back in my grandmother's day and now. Not every minister is a proponent of black liberation theology, like Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Some black churches are so staid they defy the stereotype of parishioners dancing up and down the aisles.

But what is fairly consistent despite the tone and demeanor of the church, is its tradition of being a place where people could feel rooted in their culture as well as biblical principles.

Have you ever attended a black church? If so, what was your experience? Since the Wright controversy, are you at all intrigued to attend one now?


Some of the most enjoyable and memorable experieces I have had in any church happened at St. Rosa de Lima Cathoic Church in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This is a black Catholic Church that genuinely welcomes everybody, regardless of color.

While fairly wed to the standard Catholic mass, this chuch has its own music (drums and keyboard) and great humor, and is a model for what a post-racial world would look like.
Posted by: Evan | Jul 7, 2008 8:24:48 PM


I have been a member of a Black Catholic church for 45 years. Not the same church but always Black and always Catholic. I can appreciate the more tradition Mass but that is not my choice for regular Sundays.

I believe it is accurate to to state that black worship is usually, not always, interactive. The people respond to the sermon. When the Spirit moves, the people shout and move as well. Yes, even in the Catholic Church.

The one thing that I seek from my participation in worship is the spirtual weapons to overcome the world. Good sermon brings the Word of God into our daily lives and helps us to address our present questions and struglgles.

When my white Catholic friend visited my church she told me that it seemed that we believed that God was really listening, that we really beleived he would help us. She doesn't get that feeling in her church. She cried through most of the Mass, for which she apologized. I told that if she could not be herself in her Father's house, where else could go?
Posted by: nessa | Apr 29, 2008 9:37:18 AM

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: wysiwyg
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 11:51 PM

I think I'll stick with Dr. Love's assessement, and I'll ask him where it comes from.


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Jan 09 - 10:46 PM

One of the sancraments of Christian churches is "Holy Communion".

To date, I've not been successful in finding any online descriptions of how this sancrament was and is observed in Black Baptist churches. However, these excerpts from the Wikipedia article on The Eucharist provides a basis for my description of Communion Sunday as I remember it being observed in my Baptist church in New Jersey in the 1950s, and how that service is observed in that same church as per my participation in that sevice in 2008.

"The Eucharist, also called Holy Communion or Lord's Supper and other names, is a Christian sacrament commemorating, by consecrating bread and wine, the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus Christ shared with his disciples before his arrest, and eventual crucifixion, when he gave them bread saying, "This is my body", and wine saying, "This is my blood"...

Ritual and liturgy:

Jehovah's Witnesses

The Memorial begins with a song and a prayer. The prayer is followed by a discourse on the importance of the evening. A table is set with red wine and unleavened bread. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the bread stands for Jesus Christ's body which he gave on behalf of mankind, and that the wine stands for his blood which redeems from sin... A prayer is offered and the bread is circulated among the audience. Then another prayer is offered, and the wine is circulated in the same manner. After that, the evening concludes with a final song and prayer. Only those who are anointed partake as the emblems are passed around the room to all who are present...

Latter-Day Saints

...The prepared by priesthood holders prior to the beginning of the meeting. At the beginning of the Sacrament priests say individual prayers to bless the bread and water. The bread is passed first after the priests have broken slices of bread into small pieces. All in attendance are provided an opportunity to partake of the Sacrament as it is passed from row to row by priesthood holders. After all have who desire partake, the bread is returned to the priests, who then replace the bread trays and cover them, while uncovering the water held in trays. The priests then say the second prayer and the water is then passed in small individual cups, just as the bread was...

In the Reformed Churches the Eucharist is variously administered... The Presbyterian Church (USA), for instance, prescribes "bread common to the culture". The wine served might be true alcoholic red wine or grape juice, from either a chalice or from individual cups. Hearkening back to the regulative principle of worship, the Reformed tradition had long eschewed coming forward to receive communion, preferring to have the elements distributed throughout the congregation by the presbyters (elders) more in the style of a shared meal...The elements may be found served separately with "consecration" for each element or together. Communion is usually open to all baptized believers, and although often it is reserved for those who are members in good standing of a Bible-believing Church, participation is left as a matter of conscience".

With those descriptions as a background, let me share inforamtion about how Communion Sunday was and is celebrated in Union Baptist Temple Church {Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Communion Sunday always occurs on the first Sunday of every month. {However, it should be noted that a singer in this song mentions that the 'old folks' would observe Communion Sunday on the first and the third Sundays of the month}.

On Communion Sunday, the church service is extended, and the actual communion observance takes place prior to the end of the church service. While the entire congregation attended the communion service, those persons who were not "saved" {meaning "baptized", and members of some church, not necessarily that particular church} were not supposed to drink the communion wine or eat the communion bread. However, while church members knew whether persons who regularly attended their church were baptized or not, there was no way of knowing if guests were saved or not. But to "take communion" when you were not baptized was considered to be a grievous sin.

As a child and teenager I recall the "wine" during communion was "Welches Grape juice" and the bread being unsalted crackers that were broken into much smaller pieces. However, last year when I participated in communion at my church, actual wine was provided, though individuals could request grape juice instead of wine. Mind you, children could receive wine as well as adults. The bread was slightly different from what I remembered, but it was still similar small pieces of unsalted crackers.

As a young child, I recall the congregation walking to the communion table in front of the pastor's podium to get the snall piece of bread that had been blessed by the pastor. While the pastor distributes the bread, and later the wine, he quotes Biblical passages about "The Last Supper. When they receive/d their small piece of bread, the members of the congregation would then go back to our seats and when the pastor quoted Jesus' words "This eat in remembrance of Me", everyone would eat the "bread" at the same time. After that the pastor blessed the Communion wine, and church members walked to the front of the church to receive individual small goblets of "wine" which we carried back to our seats, and which we drank all together upon the pastor's words "Drink this in remembrance of me".

When the congregation walked to the front of the church to "receive communion", the members of the choirs would walk down from their seats behind the minister's podium to receive their bread and wine. Prior to this, they and the congregation would be singing songs that were specifically associated with Communion. The last people to receive their Communion bread, and later their Communion wine were the church organist and pianist. A deacon would carry their bread and wine to them as the organist and pianist continued playing.

The tradition of church members walking to the front of the church to receive communion are shown in this video of a Black church service: Communion Sunday (NOV.08)--W.C.McClinton, Pastor

Note how the bread and wine are covered with a white cloth prior to being served. Also note that the pastor and anyone else who touches the platter of "bread" or the globet holders of wine are wearing white gloves.

At some point-I don't recall when, but I was probably a preteen or even younger-the tradition changed. The choir members came down from their seats and sat in the first rows of the church which were left vacant for them. The congregation remained in their seats and round silver plates with pieces of bread on a white cloth napkin were carried to each row by several church ushers {or is it the church deacons?} Everyone would eat the bread together when the pastor quoted those words from Jesus. The ushers or deacons would then pass out the small glass goblets of "wine" {Im not sure when my church changed from using grape juice to using real wine. I was very surprised that the communion wine was real wine when I "took communion" at the church last year, after many years of not being in that church on Communion Sunday}.

At the end of the communion, the solemn occassion changed to the more joyous occassion in which people "extended the right hand of fellowship" to other persons. This was done by shaking the hand of individuals who were standing next to you, in front of you, and across the aisle from you.


In my next post to this thread, I'll share links to other videos that I've found on observances of Communion Sunday in a couple of Black Baptist churches. While there appears to be some standard procedures for the observance of this sancrament among Black Baptists, there are some differences that I can see in the practices between these churches, and my home church.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Jan 09 - 11:29 PM

Here is a contemporary arrangement of "Let Us Break Bread Together". As the video title indicates, this is a standard song for Black Baptist Communion services:

Let Us Break Bread Together- Communion Theme Song

posted by BrothaRollins; July 23, 2007
[The Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church- Decatur, GA]


In this video, the congregation remains seated and are served the Communion bread, and then the Communion wine.

Here are some comments that viewer's posted about that video:

Yes, yes, yes!! This reminds me of communion as a little girl, when my grandmother would pin that little floppy white hat on my head. :)
-totallywitit (1 month ago)

[Note-I have no memory of that custom being observed in my church]

[This was written In response to a question about the lights being dim in the church]

The celebration in which the church is partaking is Communion. Taking of the bread and wine representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The lights go out to resemble the "night" in which the Lord was betrayed. The gloves are just ceremonial for deacons who are passing the bread and wine.
-winterbreeze125 (1 year ago)

[Dimming the lights during Communion wasn't and isn't a custom in my church. However, as I mentioned, the people who were involved in blessing and/or passing out the bread and wine wore white gloves. I believe that this is because of the sacredness of the bread & wine].


What are they (ushers) holding a sheet up for?
-tfb3hotmail (11 months ago)


That just the way the Deacons do our communion observance, My arm would get tired.
-BrothaRollins (11 months ago)

[At my church, the communion table always sits in front of the church directly below the pastor's podium. On Communion Sunday, the plates of Communion bread and the trays with the very snall goblets of wine are covered with a white table cloth and are brought out at the beginning of the Communion service. Note-the table is present, but not the Communion bread and wine during the regular church service. However, unlike the video whose link is provided above, in my church, the white tablecloth is folded and put aside, marking the beginning of the actual service.

My guess is that the white tablecloth further emphasizes the sacredness of this sancrament. Holding the tablecloth so that the members of the congregation can't see the bread and wine, further emphasizes the holiness of the sacrament and may signify the belief that some things that are sacred may have to be hidden from everyone but the ministers and deacons of the church].

See this comment about the white sheets:

YES! YES! YES! Now this is Church! Back in the dat [sic] when they had the Pot-Belly stove in the from to keep you not warm.... But WOAM! Back in the day when people took pride in taking communion; the mothers would take those white sheets home, and wash them, press them, and iron them, and not take them to the cleaners! Back when every Preacher had a Cadillac! When the Mothers would wear their all white, and the ushers would where those blue outfits.... MAN! I miss Church like this!
-tkj1985 (5 months ago)

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Jan 09 - 11:51 PM

here is another video of a Black church choir singing a Communion song:

Communion Song The Body of Christ
clltube1 ; June 17, 2007

The only comments posted for this video are those praising the song. However, no information is given about the song. The video does not show any footage of the actual Communion service.

For what it's worth, I've never heard this song before. Many of the choir members are reading the words to the song as they sing. This rarely occurs in Black churches I've attended, and may be an indication that this is a new song that the choir is learning.

Note the congregations' praise giving exclamations and exhortations during and after the choir sings this anthem-like song.

The tags for this video include "COGIC" which may mean that this denomination is Church of God in Christ.

The tags for this video also include the words "Family Worship Center Hutchins"."Family Worship Center" may be the name of the church, and "Hutchins" may be the name of the city where this church is located. However, this is just a guess. Unfortunately, the video poster's profile just gives his or her location as "United States",with no information about the denomination or location of this church.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 12:08 AM

This reminds me of communion as a little girl, when my grandmother would pin that little floppy white hat on my head

It just occurs to me that there was a time when every female who attended church, including little girls, but especially women would wear a hat or otherwise have their head covered. Also, females used to wear short white gloves to church.

I'm going back to the 1950s with these memories. But those customs fell by the wayside in the early 1960s. While you may see a few women in the spring or summertime wearing a hat to church, it's not mandatory like it used to be. And it's rare if you see any woman, wearing white gloves in church, except when those happen to be part of the uniform of the ushers or deaconness.

I wonder if the custom of women covering their head came about because the beiief was that the power of the Holy Spirit was too intense for women to bare without something between them and that Holy Spirit {assuming that the Holy Spirit comes from above}.

I'm just guessing here. I'm not sure what is the meaning of the practice of women {and not men} covering their head in church.

Btw, I'd love to 'hear' from others about my recollections and comments. I'm trying to document information about these traditions, and I really don't want to be alone in doing so.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Nick E
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 01:20 AM

Thank you for the time you are puting in.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: wysiwyg
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 09:53 AM


We so often come a cropper on communication; I am not hopeful any of the following will come across as I intend. But I can report on the "Black Church," somewhat, as it exists in the Episcopal Church.

My "basis" of experience:

I have attended three, have friends in a fourth I may get to visit next week, and have friends I will see again this week who have been to our "all-white" mountain-town/rural parish as co-leaders of a weekend event. Our current Diocesan Bishop is AA; recently he was Dean of the Washington National Cathedral. Before that he was Dean of a theological seminary. He is prominent in the Union of Black Episcopalians. He will be at Obama's inauguration. He has at least one ordained family member I know of (in another denom.) I have met once. I met many of his extended family members socially at the time of his consecration.

Then there is the (AA) newly-ordained priest friend of my husband and I; we also had some small part in his process from the Baptist ministry and into the priesthood in our denomination; like our Bishop he has had an interesting journey through denominations, and his wife, I believe, is an ordained Baptist.

We've lost touch with the folks we knew in a large, affluent Black parish in Detroit....

There were AA folk in attendance at the even-more-conservative (non-ECUSA) parish I visited once in LA....

There have been, from time to time, AA students from downstate who have attended the local uni the next town over, who have been to that town's parish church, and who have found themselves at home in the service.

... There are also the AA spouses of these all these priests, bishop, and lay leaders....

My husband, in Chicago, served under an AA bishop and knew him well.

I would venture to say that of the folks above with whom we are still in contact, these are people who don't avoid Mudcat because it's low on AA members, but because they lack time to mess into a busy music website. I consider them my friends (we have so few, even close to home, who we ever get to see often in person), and I hope they consider me (us) theirs. So, like the old saw says, some of my best friends are-- Black! :~)

To the extent that I can, I will tell you what I know they would report to you:

Throughout the US Episcopal Church ("ECUSA"), communion is communion is communion, and is the same as in every other ECUSA parish-- diverse as to theological slant on the basic Anglican theology, but liturgically exactly the same. Communion is communion, and liturgy is liturgy.

The prayer book we all use is online and one can read the communion rite there for a complete description of the priest's action, the people's action, and the options available. At the ECUSA website I am sure there is great theological description of the meaning of it all.

At the Church Hymnal Website one can learn about the music resources available to all parishes that are used during communion. Our (all-white) parish has used "the" "Black" hymnal published there, and I have also seen the mainstream 1982 Hymnal at all of the above parishes, which contains largely European hymnody adapted for the US. There is a new hymnal some parishes use that blends all these strains with "praise" music.

In the ECUSA, there are theological strains (at what are called "renewal" parishes) that would have familiar elements to Pentcostal worship, but I have never attened these and I do not know their AA participation. Regardless, the music, communion, and liturgy will be the same as already described. (There may be more extemporaneous verbal expression, dance, preaching, etc.; but this will be theologically based, not color-based.)

From my observations, there are still hats on some AA ladies' heads in Episcopal church.... about as many as there are on blonde, white heads in our old-fashioned, affluent parish. I did see a few more in Detroit. (I wore a good one, myself, when we were there interviewing, but it was more due to their anticipated social standing than their "color.")

And I will see, when I next see each and every one of them, if they have any contributions to make to this thread. But they are going to think it silly of me to ask them, I am sure of that. I copied all of the foregoing (not this post yet) onto my laptop so I could take it on my trip along with the anti-racism material I am taking for another purpose. (I'll put this post on it, too, if I hook up the laptop again.)

And I know it's your option to agree to disagree with me anytime, but know this-- I will NEVER catalog my "Black Props" again, in an effort to simply share with you what I know! I offer it here in the hope that you will change your assessment of my credibility so we can get on with doing the important things we do in this crazy world.

I do actually know one or two things. Maybe not too many more than that, but 1 or 2.

An old friend of mine once offered to me that anytime a person didn't want to deal with me on color matters (his terms), I could refer them to him for a reference. At the time he presided over the NAACP unit he'd founded in the little suburban town where I lived and worked. I moved, and since then he's also a little harder to find-- But he was Google-able last time I looked. Dr. Jaslin Salmon. If you run into him in your research-- gosh, tell him I still want to read his manuscript, and hear his stories, OK?


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 10:28 AM

Susan, I started this thread because I am interested in helping to preserve memories about Black church traditions.

You are welcome to add your memories and present day experience to this thread. I also welcome your friends {those who are Black and those who are non-Black} posting to this thread.

However, I want to emphasis that this thread is about Black Church Services. Note the plural. We {Black Americans} are not one person. We are many people with varied racial, ethnic, regional, and socio-economic backgrounds. And we have a varied lifestyles, interests, and experiences. Because we are have varied backgrounds etc, our worship services are not the same in every regard.

Just as I never talk about "the Black community", or "the Black man" or "the Black woman", I don't talk about "the Black church". There are many Black churches.

Some African American churches have had and continue to have non-African American members. And most Black churches that I'm aware of have been and continue to be welcoming to non-Black people.

That said, the reason for this thread is not to talk about the racial/ethnic membership of Black churches. The purpose of this thread is to help document information about traditions {or perhaps I should say "ways of worshipping"} that are found in some Black churches. Some of these ways of worshipping within Blach churches are very old. Some are these ways of worshipping within Black churches are modifications of old ways, and some of them are new.

It is important to note that indicating that these traditions were {or are} found in some Black churches does not mean that they weren't {or aren't} found in any non-Black church.

In my opinion, a thread that lists the ways in which Black American churches and White American churches are the same would be a different thread in purpose and in content than this one.

Again, Susan, I welcome your participation in this thread. And I welcome the participation of any other person who posts to this thread who adds to the information about the thread's subject matter.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 10:30 AM

Nick E, you're welcome.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 10:58 AM

Let me return for a moment as to why I started this thread. As I mentioned in my first post, this thread grew out of this earlier thread Jerry R's 'Black/White Gospel Workshop

Here is an excerpt of the initial post to that thread:

Subject: Jerry R's 'Black/White Gospel Workshop
From: wilco48 - PM
Date: 22 Nov 02 - 10:16 AM

For years, I've been looking for a workshop about the shared heritage of US Black and White gospel music, their common origins, singing styles, etc. Jerry Ramussen (sp?) does this workshop with his gospel quartet!...


That thread has been revived several times throughout the years. I have posted information to that thread about 'ways of singing', and may add more. However, I started this thread because I felt that there should be a separate thread about 'ways of worshipping' in Black churches.

That said, I believe that some of the posts on that "'Black/White Gospel Workshop" thread-such as the posts about off-beat clapping- may also fit very well on this thread. For instance, I believe that my initial post to that thread also fits very well on this thread.

Because I feel that it is pertinent to this subject, I'll add that comment as my next post to this thread.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 11:07 AM

[The only change that I have made to this comment is adding the word "pianist" that I inadvertently left out of a sentnce]

Subject: RE: Jerry R's 'Black/White Gospel Workshop
From: Azizi - PM
Date: 26 Feb 05 - 06:06 PM

I've read through this thread with great interest and also want to thank you for bringing it back again.

I wanted to share a little bit now and more later..

I was raised in a Black Baptist church in New Jersey. Union Baptist Temple had [and still has] a congregation that for the most part was too 'saditty' to get happy.

When I was growing up [in the 1950s-mid 1960s] there were a number of church choirs that were divided by age and there was also a men's choir..During that time there was a children's choir, a Gospel Choir [made up of older women and men[, a young adult choir, called the 'Spiral Chorus', that was my mother's choir, a men's choir, and a mass choir. The Spiral Chorus sung the more innovative, uptempo gospel songs. In contrast, notwithstanding their name, the Gospel Choir sung anthems and hymns and slower gospel numbers. Besides all this our pastor, Rev. Matthew E. Neil was a singer preacher with a wonderful voice..

The choirs would rotate Sundays..I always preferred the Sundays when the Spiral Chorus sang..

Our chruch organist was a classically trained musician who eventually worked for the school system as a pianist. Our church pianist read music but [and] was a much more down home type musician..In later years I understood that there had been some tug of war between which style of music and accompaniment was best..Yet it seemed to me that they complimented each other well. As one might expect from their musical backgrounds, Mrs. Burke, the classically trained organist was the director of the more conventional Gospel choir, and Mrs Winstead the down home pianist was the director of the Spiral Chorus.

At that time we had no drums or guitars, saxophone or any other musical istruments in our church save the tamborine that was sometimes was used by the Spiral chorus. I also vaguely recall that some individual church members would sometimes bring their own tamborine to church, but this was very rare.

Of course times have changed and that church now has a drummer and a guitar player [but still no saxophone and usually no tamborines]
Clapping off beat is rare in that church now-though I recall that when I was young".


I should also mention that this church {which I refer to as my "home church"} also has a trumpet player who accompanies the pianist, electric guitarist, and snare drummer for all the congregational songs. The drummer appears to usually accompany the choir's songs. However the guitarist and the trumpet player appear to only accompany the pianist for the congregational songs. Regrettably, when I visited that church {I live about 7 hours away}, there's usually no organist playing along with the pianist.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: LilyFestre
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 11:16 AM

During the late 1980s & early 1990s, I was living in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia and going to college. My best girlfriend's name was Earlene and she was dating a black man who invited us to go to his church. We agreed and met him one winter Sunday morning (I have no idea of the name or the denomination of his church) at his church on the south side of the city. I remember it being kind of a cold day and we had to walk a few blocks from the train and I was looking forward to being inside the church where things would be warmer. We got inside and the first thing I noticed was that there was no heat. Second thing I noticed, I was the whitest person in the universe. Earlene is Hispanic and she was the only other person in the room that was not a dark shade of brown. Coming from a rural northern town where there were only 2 black families in the entire town, this was an unusual experience for me. I wasn't uncomfortable but more this is what it's like to be the minority. So anyway, we met up with her boyfriend and we were welcomed into the church as we would have been at any other open church. Then the music started. There were drums, an electric guitar, singing by everyone in the building (there was no choir, no choir director, no song leader), no stuffy hymnals....there was a lot of praise going on. And dancing. And women passing out with ushers coming to cover them with blankets in case their skirts had risen...the music went on for an hour and it was then that I understood why there was no heat...there was no need for it...we were all up and moving and singing and having a grand time. The sermon was inspiring, interesting and captivating and I loved every single second of it. If there was such a church here, in northern PA, I'd be there, every week. It was a place that brought the feeling of joy...not that all church services don't have that aim in mind, but this was down to earth, easily understood by all and I didn't feel any pretense amongst the parishoners or the ministers. I remember feeling very welcomed. It was a very loving service, not just the message of God but the love for one another too.
    It was probably the best church service I attended, EVER!


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 11:21 AM

For the sake of helping to preserve this article, I'm posting it in its entirety:

Faded Memories
Ariana Gause | Jefferson County High School
Thursday, March 2, 2006

"Wrinkles now line a face that was once as smooth as peanut butter. Gray hair has replaced a crop of hair that shone black as a stallion. Brittle bones have taken space where strong limbs once lived. Her eye-sight has gotten dimmer and her hearing is nearing extinction. Memories that were once filled with gaiety and excitement of family traditions are fading into an evening sunset; never to return anymore.

This very vivid image is a portrait of my ninety-one year old grandmother whom I admire and respect dearly. From the very onset of my existence, she was an intricate part of my life. Barely out of the womb of my mother, she swooped me into a welcoming world of many promises. Her mother-wit and values of everyday life and living has nurtured me into the young adult I am becoming.

Faded Memories

Her spiritual and religious beckoning has taught me how to appreciate the black church and its traditions. I can relate well to the old hymns sung during revival meetings and on Sunday mornings. Yes, I have a connection to the "Hoop" that black ministers use when preaching the spoken word. The "Big Sunday go da Meetings" where my grandmother's food was the center of attention was days I could appreciate. She would cook that good old soul food and everyone in the church would "ooh" and "ah" about Ms. Janie's "box." You know, back then, the old folks would bring their sweet potato pies, collard greens, corn bread, coconut pies, fried chicken, and all that other good stuff to church in a greasy cardboard box. It may have been greasy, but boy was it tasty.

About three years ago, things began to change, and I began to slowly lose that old lady they call, "Ms. Janie." Now, I don't mean physically because she is still alive, but sadly to say, in another world that only she knows. You see, she has been robbed by that memory monster called Alzheimer.

Faded Memories

She was placed in a convalescent home just one day before Thanksgiving in 2005. This nearly destroyed my life. My daily routine of visiting her at home, and after school was stopped. No longer was I able to sit and chat about the old days and old times. I sadly miss going in and out of Big Mamma's kitchen looking for snacks or for something good to eat she has prepared. Also, the trip to church on Sunday mornings used to be enjoyable and funny. I can see her now strutting up her walkway in her white suit and white hat to match.

Faded Memories

All of the above memories are so precious that I wish I could capture them and lock them in a safe-deposit box. I will forever cherish the moments and tuck them in the bosom of my heart. I must face reality and realize that the memories that once were are now gone and are fading into an evening sunset that will never rise again.

Faded Memories

I love you Ms. Janie and will never forget the wonderful and glorious times we spent together. Your beautiful memories will never be forgotten because they will forever dwell in my heart. I salute you as my African-American hero because you have taught me how to live in a mean world. You are the fabric that is woven into a quilt of values. Every patch has significance meanings. Your insight and strong wisdom has provided inspiration, guidance, and determination for me to follow.

From the Tuesday, February 28, 2006 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle


Does anyone know what is meant by "The Hoop" as it is referred to in this sentence:

"Yes, I have a connection to the "Hoop" that black ministers use when preaching the spoken word."

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Ref
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 11:32 AM

Very enlightening. Thanks for your work on this!

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 11:42 AM

Thanks, Michelle, for your comment.

Your description of that church service sounds like it may have been a Pentacostal church.

In the post that I just added to this thread, I noted that people in my church were too "sidity" to get happy. {"Sidity" means "middle class" and probably comes from the word "society", as in the phrase "high society". "Get happy" means "to show by word or actions that you are feeling the [Holy] spirit".

The experience you shared was almost 360 degrees from the formality {as measured by Black churches} of my church-yet they are both Black churches. And both experiences have merit.

I have attended churches like the one you mentioned a number of times. I liked the church services, but I found that my upbringing and my reserved, analytical nature made it difficult for me to really "get in to" the praise & worship.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 11:52 AM

You're welcome, and thank you, Ref for posting to this thread.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 12:05 PM

[I'm posting this article in its entirety, as a means of helping to preserve it for the future]

Things I miss about the Black pentecostal church
Posted by elderj on February 5, 2007

"As I have been out of my cultural element in church for the last months, I have become very aware of some things that I really miss – things that are both cultural and religious. Some of them are things which are often held back in the context of "multi-ethnic" communities because they make people uncomfortable; others are quirks of my Pentecostal background.

Sister & Brother: Growing up, and even now, any adult person in the congregation was always referred to by their last name preceded by a title – usually sister or brother, but sometimes something else, depending on their position. Even within families, this is true. For example, at church I never referred to my father except as Elder or Pastor or Bishop. I had cousins who, outside of church, might be called casually by their first name, but in church became Deacon X or Missionary Y. I miss that. It is a practice that is falling out of favor in some Black churches, but it is rooted deep in our culture – to show honor and respect to those who have earned it, and also to acknowledge the inherent dignity and worth of people whose personhood was often assailed during the working week.

Testimony Service: It doesn't happen much anymore, but in years past, almost every Sunday service (or Sunday evening service) saw testimony service, which was the congregants chance to sing their own song or tell about some particular thing God had done for them that week, or even ask a prayer request. Oh of course many of the testimonies bordered on gossip, (pray for my daughter that she wouldn't be so rebellious…) but there is something very ennobling and participatory about any person, no matter their status or position, being able to participate in the service in that way. Testimony service was often the most "explosive" part of the service, because a really good testimony could set off…

Shouting: And by shouting I mean running down the aisles, dancing with abandon, jumping up and down, and of course actually shouting. It is a spontaneous joyful response to God in worship; and expression of being touched by the Spirit. You could run, jump, yell, fall out on the floor and it was contagious. If one rejoiced, others would join in – jumping feet first into the flow of the Spirit and allow themselves to be carried away. Everyone who shouted had their own preferred style and as kids one of our biggest games was to play church so we could playfully mock Sister So and So – complete with falling out and pretending to speak in tongues (cometiemybowtie… shecomeinahonda)

Let the church say amen: I miss the "Amens" and "Say that" and "You preaching now, doc," that accompany almost every good sermon. The single hand lifted by a church mother signifying her agreement with the sermon, the brother standing up in the middle of the sermon pointing at the preacher, the loud cries of "yeah!" echoing through the sanctuary make the sermon so much more than just …

Preaching: Now don't get me wrong. I enjoy my pastor's sermons. They are thoughtful, articulate, theologically sound and generally edifying. BUT… there is just nothing quite like good old school Black Pentecostal preaching. If you aren't familiar with it, check out TD Jakes for a sample (although he's toned down a bit for the TV audience) or even Rod Parsley – who is white, but preaches like a Black Pentecostal. I miss the kind of preaching that causes you, despite yourself, to want to stand up and holler because it is just so potent and connects at such an emotional and spiritual level. Sometimes the content wouldn't be that great, but you would leave church encouraged and inspired to "go on a little further in the Lord."

Music: I didn't want to say this one, because people always say this about the Black church, and it gets a little annoying. But I do miss the music – the improvisational interpretation of songs, the culture of music, the mentoring of young musicians, many of whom have never and will never learn to read music or be trained professionally.

All in all, I think I miss the very participatory nature of my Black Pentecostal roots. Church and worship are places where everyone was given dignity, anyone could participate, all were welcome to contribute. It hardly mattered if you could sing well – you could still sing in the choir. Even if you were one of the saints who struggled to live right, you could share during the testimony service. You didn't have to be a musician to pick up the tambourine and play. You didn't have to be on the dance team or go to practice in order to "shout." The success of a sermon was not just in the preachers hands, but he could (and did) "wish somebody would help me preach this." Sigh… these are some of the things I miss."

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 12:17 PM

Here is a comment that was posted in response to elderj's article "Things I miss about the Black pentecostal church" whose link was given in the preceding post:

"Thinking a lot about testifying these days… And being out of my element for far too long. It seems to me that many majority churches are craving the connection that sharing testimony provided in black church communities. These churches are beginning to incorporate testimony as a way of building community while at the same time, black Pentecostal churches are leaving the tradition behind. Would love feedback on this.
-Angel; February 23, 2008


See this excerpt of an online article about church "testifying":

"I Just Want to Testify

Many churches (including Pentecostalists, African-American Churches, many African churches, some Methodists, and some Latin American base communities) have found that the practice of sharing testimony has been helpful in discovering how God works in daily life. As Christians live, and find out how God works in their own lives, they share it with each other in worship, in prayer meetings, or in other churchly meetings. Anyone can testify, and thus anyone can take part in the process of discovery. The testimonies are sorted out over time, as those who hear the testimony try out these things in their own life through the 'Bible eyes' that the Spirit gives them, and find the truth or untruth in them.

Since anyone can testify and anyone's testimony can have an effect, the practice of sharing testimony can break down the walls of race, age, gender, or socio-economic class. It can be an eye-opener for visitors who have no idea of how good the Good News can be. It can help people to be less afraid of God and more aware that God is near and at hand rather than at a far distance. Money, illness, conflict, fidelity, young love, addiction, attitude, work, daily encounters with evil -isms, new awareness, sadness, fear : all kinds of matters of who they are and what happens to them are all brought to the Body when testifying. But they're not brought up as matters to discuss or as a laundry list of failings or successes. They're brought up as a place in life where God is at work, where the struggle is bared, where the victories are celebrated and the Source of all true victory is given praise.

There are dangers, though. One danger is that people might think that God is giving them teachings that have authority of their own. Testimony is for learning to live a Christian life, not for defining what a Christian life is. Scripture does that. Another danger is that a testifying church can get caught up in sensational or dramatic testimony. Those who hear it can easily forget that sometimes people are liars, testifying to justify their deeds before others, or (even worse) to draw attention or praise or (worst of all) power to themselves. Everything that the Christian and the church does has to be subject to the weighing, testing, and sorting work of the Spirit through the processes and gifts of discernment. If the church which receives testimony cannot uphold the duty to discern, it may be wiser not to let anyone testify, for such testimony would be out of context and thus be rendered unable to build up the fellowship".

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 12:59 PM

Azizi, you should put all of this research into a book. It's quite amazing, and one day, one day when things have moved on, someone will find your book and be able to recreate every single aspect of what a Black church service contained.

It must be wonderful if someone's making a film, or documentary, to have all this at their fingertips.

Pretty darn awesome, Sister! :0) LOL

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 01:15 PM

Here is a video of "Praise Break"- Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer

Rowoches; August 20, 2008
Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer; Chicago, Illinois


I believe that this church's denomination is COGIG {Church Of God In Christ}

Note: the man playing the washboard, along with the snare drums, organist, electric guitar player, and tamborine. Also note the people getting happy and "doing the holy dance".


Also, see this video:

West Angeles Praise Break

August 28, 2008

"Sunday Night service at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. Taking a break to praise God!"


Here are several viewer comments about this video:

"Oh yeah! It's like this EVERY Sunday night at West A's north campus. Good old fashioned COGIC praise. Check it out if you are ever in L.A."
-bidonpenn (2 weeks ago)


" can B a lil' stuffy N the mornins @ the cathedraL, but we cutts loose N the"
-DisTRAINbound4GLORY (4 months ago)


"that is so true. and i don't understand why, its like the spirit is quenched in the morning, but at night its off the chain. i hope one sunday morning for the holy ghost to come in like a flood and affect everything and everybody."
flcogicboy (3 months ago)


"There is something about a Sunday NIGHT service...I heard a peacher once say people that go to church on Sunday morning go out of tradition, but TRUE Saints go BACK to church on Sunday night!! When I attend a really good Sunday night service, it just makes me 'float' through on Monday! Go on West Angeles, and get yo' praise on!! :-) "
-ladynfsoffice (4 months ago)


"I agree... I feel like at them sunday night services, you can break free from the "traditional" mornin service and REALLY get down wit God!"
-dwest1985 (4 months ago)


[Also, see these comments about the music]

"This beat is baptist. (I'm a baptist organist)
COGIC/Pentacostal is a little faster.
Apostolic is just off te meter. "
-AJLD1 (3 months ago)


"Actually I find alot of down south/West Coast COGIC's shouts to be around this tempo...
-KELH1990 (3 months ago)


"lol, u right. the baptist do hit it a lil slower. i love it".
-matthew5and9 (2 months ago)


"FYI: Apostolics are Pentecostal also.. we are off the meter though. This is a nice beat, just enough so everybody, including the older saints can dance".


Note: "Saints", as used here means "church members", a person who has been saved. "Church members" means "members of that church and other Pentacostal churches, and, perhaps also any other person who is a Christian.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 01:19 PM

Thanks, Lizzie. But I have no intentions of turning this thread into a book or any other published work on this subject. I'm still working on my children's rhymes writing projects that I mentioned on Mudcat way back in 2005.

But if someone wants to do so, she or he can go for it.


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: GUEST,Dani
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 02:08 PM

Thanks for sharing all this, Azizi.

Any time I have visited a Black church in my community, I have felt welcomed body and soul, and the styles of worship, praise, preaching, singing suited me so much more than any White church I ever attended. The AME congregation especially appeals to me, similar to my 'high-church' roots, but with way more spirit and a wide-openness to the worship.

Your comments, Azizi, bring to mind a story, which I may have told before:

Some years ago I worked with an organization that was made up of many churches (though all Christian but mine), and that rotated meeting spaces among them. At the time I was a member of the Unitarian church. I was also teaching a Sunday School course there that teaches kids about (and takes them to visit) all kinds of religious persuasions. I especially enjoyed working with Mr. Moore, an elderly gentleman from Mt. Bright (Black Baptist, a VERY spirited and lively church that was so much fun for me to attend).

In any case, it was our turn to host, and we met in a circle, and had a very typical, quiet, mellow meeting in the style of that UU congregation. At the end, Mr. Moore turned to me and said, "BLACK!(that's my name) I like your church very much, and would like to come here." I said "Why, Mr. Moore?! Your church is wonderful!" He said "Yeah, Black, but a man can't think or pray with all that noise going on!"

Just goes to show you...


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 02:39 PM

Here is an example of a choir leader testifying while feeling the spirit:

UNCP Gospel Choir Praise Break 1

June 09, 2008

"Praise Break at UNCP Voices Of Serenity's Spring Concert. Ole' Skool moment at the end w/ The Lord Is Blessing Me. Y'all know how those mass choirs and workshop choirs used to do! LOL!"


UNCP" is an abbreviation for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke


Somewhat off-topic:

A number of these comments from viewers of YouTube videos reflect the common use of "hip-hop" words, phrases, and spelling. In my opinion, hip-hop language is greatly influenced by sounding out words "phonics". The result is that vernacular words are spelled closer to the way that they are pronounced. While the mainstream pronounciation is usually retained, the updated spelling gives the word a "cooler", more "with it" look. Using these new spellings, people signal that they are "hip", "cool", "fresh", "down with it", "phat" or what ever word means something superlative has taken the place of those retired words.

But as you may have noticed, hip-hop languaging might also mean that a word whose spelling is close to its pronunciation, like "fat", is changed to "phat". In that case, a different meaning is given to that word {one meaning for "phat" is that someone has "blown up", is "living large", has "made it big", is "hot", is "dynamite", is "off the hook", is "off the chain" etc [There really is a method to and reasoning behind African American slang].

All of this to say :o) that instead of saying that the music is a revival of a old, largely retired style, the viewers to these gospel videos wrote that the music was "old skool". Some viewers wrote that the large choir processionals were "old skool." And some fplks mentioned that playing the washboard was "old skool". Notice that instead of writing the word "school" the mainstream way, that word is written "skool", which is actually closer to the way that word is pronounced...

I'll leave that digression there, but thought that I'd better mention it since the word "old skool" has come up repeatedly in those YouTube comments.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 02:45 PM

Thanks for sharing your comments and your story, Dani.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: LilyFestre
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 05:57 PM

Like I said, I really don't know what kind of church it was, it didn't matter to me, I was out with my friend for a new kind of adventure. This church was not in a middle class neighborhood. It was on the south side of Atlanta where it was poor and primarily black. It had a reputation of not being the safest place to be. In fact, almost 20 years ago to the day, there was a march to honor Martin Luther King Day that I had attended. The march was held in Forsythe County, a town named Cummings to be more exact. I had not yet moved to Atlanta and was a student at a university in Rhode Island, working as the photographer for the school's daily paper...and they sent me down to cover this march. So....the school bus dropped us in Atlanta, we hitched a ride to Forsythe County (all public transportation was full) and hitched a ride back to Atlanta after the march. As it happened, my very best childhood friend was employed at CNN in Atlanta and he agreed to meet me at midnight and our plan was to hit an IHOP and camp out all night catching up and visiting. My residence for the night that was planned for all the students that I traveled to Atlanta with was the gym floor across the street from the MLK Center. John had agreed to meet me there. He was a little bit late and I was anxious to see my friend so I stood outside on the street corner at the Ebenezer Baptist Church...MLK's church....located on the southern side of Atlanta.....John swerved in, slammed on his brakes opened the car door and he started screaming at me. Why was I standing out here all alone? Did I have any idea where I was? Did I know how unsafe this area was? *innocent look* No. I had NO idea. I'm a country girl with a camera visiting the big city. Sooooooooo...I guess that's a long story to your response in that I don't believe the church I went to was full of middle class people, nor were they shy about making a joyful noise! I hear you about being reserved, but isn't that just kind of sad? Not for you personally but for us all? No wonder so many people don't want to go to's boring, stale and can put the most alert person to I said, if there was a church around here that could invoke that kind of energy in me, I'd go and never look back. *sigh* What a wonderful memory...thanks for asking us to remember our own experiences!


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 08:46 PM

Thanks, moderator for removing the bold font from that post.


Michelle, I appreciate your comment. I hasten to say however, that my home church was/is not "boring, stale and can put the most alert person to sleep".

You will recall that I said that my church was formal "as measured by Black churches". That means that the service may have been less formal than many Anglo-American church services.

Also, with regard to my being "reserved". I think that people should be true to their natures. I'm convinced that there are reserved individuals who are raised in very spirited churches and at least some of these people are uncomfortable with that fit. Maybe it's like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. That's why I believe that there is more than one way to the Truth.


I received a private message from a Mudcatter who asked whether I was going to raise the subject of the altar call.

Since I'd never heard the phrase "altar call" before, I looked it up on Google. It appears that an "altar call" is the same thing that we {Black Baptist and maybe other Black denominations} refer to as "Opening up the doors of the church".

The pastor always asks people to join the church after he {or she} ends the sermon. Pastors open the doors of the church at Sunday sermons, and at church revivals. And as the person who private messaged me mentioned, some pastors have started the practice of "opening the doors of the church" after they give the funeral eulogy. I state this for informational purposes, but if I were to give my opinion about this practice-which I witnessed on two occassions-it would not be a polite one.

It seems to me that the subject of the "altar call" should follow information sharing about Black preaching styles.

I'll share some information about that subject in my next two posts to this thread.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 09:07 PM

Through the wonders of the Google search engine, I found what I consider to be a very good article called An Introduction To Black Preaching Styles. That article was written in 1986 by Geoff Alexander, and is the transcription of a cassette that he prepared "with keyed examples of excerpts from sermons".

In the interest of preserving portions of this document, I'm going to post long passages of it on this thread.


...The black sermon is stated in the vernacular, with inflection and timing so musical that many have compared it in style to improvised jazz. Much of the sermon is improvised around a matrix both sacred and profane, and the style is cohesive enough that one can enter virtually any black Baptist, Methodist, or Pentecostal church from coast-to-coast and hear a sermon of similar form. This is assured in part by the congregation, which answers the preacher verbally at every opportunity, creating a call-and-response pattern, which often builds to a frightening intensity...

Whether he be pastor, preacher, healer, or evangelist, the key to the success of the Black Christian orator will ultimately lie in his interaction with the congregation. Unlike many white congregations, the black membership will shout words of encouragement, affirmation, or repeat whole phrases as a way of interaction with the ministry. They are not preached to as much as they are preached with; this will be readily apparent upon listening to the accompanying tape. This rhythmically musical call-and-response is an essential part of the black sermon, and one of the main differences between it and the white Pentecostal service.Bruce Rosenberg describes the congregation as follows:

"Everyone is sweating all the time...cardboard hand fans with mortuary advertisements are swished back and forth, giving undertone of humming...No real effort is made to stop children from giggling or...infants from crying... The women usually sit together in front with their young... The men, who are relaxed and jovial as they joke outside, come in at the last moment and sit near the back. At many services, one or two of them sleep through the sermon" (5,12). Rosenberg also notes the ever-present handkerchief used by the preacher to wipe the sweat off his brow, his gyrations and wild gesticulations...

The Black Sermon is formulaic, but relies upon improvisation often inspired by the congregation to fill out the formula of the sermon. Of all the texts I have read on the subject, I find Gerald Davis' to be the most insightful as to the definition and categorization of the sermon itself, and therefore will use his findings extensively in this chapter. Davis defines the sermon as "a narrative system which incorporates rationalized sets of conventions and principles designed to support the articulation of existence, belief, and cosmologic considerations in the experiencing lives of African-American people." Davis then sets five formulaic boundaries that occur within the sermon itself, each of which must be performed in predefined order:

A. Preacher indicates that text was provided under divine inspiration.
B. Identification of the theme of the sermon, followed by appropriate quotation from the Bible.

C. Interprets, first literally, then broadly, the quoted Bible passage.

D. Independent, theme-related formulas, developing or retarding a sacred/secular tension and moving between abstract and concrete example. Each formula is an aspect of the "argument" of the sermon.

E. Closure as such is rarely found in the black sermon, but more commonly there will be a brief moment of testimony, or an affirmation of faith by the preacher. (3,67-82)

The sermon itself is usually prefaced by a prayer and music, which in itself is lively enough that the congregation will be moved by the spirit sufficiently to be an attentive and vocal audience for the sermon. Most preachers are good singers, but trust the music director of the church to provide the musical program...

Black preaching is built upon a hemistich system of rhythmic repetition, in which the pulses are felt rather than strictly metered...

The listener will notice how quickly the congregation keys into this hemistich rhythmic pulse, which is a basic part of contemporary Black preaching styles.

One of the foundations of the style is a constant push/pull between the sacred and the secular. [Rev] Thomas' references to dope addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes are typical of the Black sermon, and deal with issues and people that the congregation, particularly in large cities, find in their daily lives.

Thomas also uses certain phrases as refrains, which, although not cited as often as the theme itself, lend almost an ode-like quality to the piece...

[The] his notion of parallelism, [is] consistent with the rhythm and poetry of the black sermon...

The mark of a brilliant preacher is the way he moves in and around themes and manages to eventually tie them all together, and Thomas' particular genius is confirmed by the fact that ten minutes into the sermon, with emotion rising in the congregation, he still has the poetic presence of mind to tie in the grand theme at the closing of the parallel "But" sequence.

Thomas is also a user of the "exemplum," a section of the sermon in which the preacher gives an example in story form which emphasizes the point of the sermon. The exemplum in this case is his illustration of what happens to someone who, after tying himself to the tail of a calf, doesn't know whether to let go or hold on once it "shakes loose" and starts to run away.

Approximately eleven minutes into the message, Thomas begins half-singing half-talking chant which will eventually evolves into full-fledged song.The song itself begins with the refrain "I found out..." and is answered by the congregation in responses such as "well..." or "yes..." These comments fall into the category known as sermonphones (3,99), and can fall into several classes, three of the most popular being one-word sermonphones ("well…"), phrase sermonphones ("thank you Jesus!"), and non-articulated sermonphones, which are so prevalent in the black sermon that I will have several examples further in the cassette, and generally consist of unintelligible grunts, whoops, groans and hums...

In ending his sermon, Reverend Thomas returns to parallelism, with the word "Evvvery...!" acting as the beginning to truncated sentences, and we can hear his voice fading in and out on the tape as he walks back and forth and side to aide from the pulpit. When he sings "I feel him!" the screams from the congregation begin and pandemonium results as the members fall into the spirit of God, and foot stomping and shouted sermonphones such as "Yes Lord" and "Yes sir!" threaten to drown out the animated Reverend. He closes his sermon with a recommendation to get right with God, followed by a closing hymn from the choir"...

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 09:13 PM

Here are additional excerpts from Geoff Alexander's article rAn Introduction To Black Preaching Styles:



Gerald Davis notes that so heavily is the preacher involved in citing specific secular references, that his use of sacred reference points seems casual by comparison, and notes that the goal of the sermon itself often seems to be "an expressly political end, the spiritual and physical liberation of African-Americans"(3,62-63). This heavy shift in the sacred/secular polarity toward the secular is "a key concept in distinguishing the African-American sermon from the sermons of other groups"(3,64).

One of the elements I find so highly dramatic in the secular portion of the sermon is the humor, which none of my reference materials think is important enough to mention...

Finally, I must make mention of a preaching form I can only refer to as the "Secular Rant", which one can generally hear at one time or another on late Sunday night radio broadcasts. It takes the form of a tirade against a type of person, or institution, with the pendulum swinging rapidly back and forth between sacred and secular, faster, in fact, than in a traditional sermon, due to the lack of the presence a congregation to provide response...


I feel that this great, pure, ethnic art form known as the Black Sermon remains perhaps the best example of the American oral tradition alive today. Handed down from father to son, preacher to congregation, and radio evangelist to listener, it is pervasive to the extent that it can be heard today in many venues within each major U.S. city, in many smaller communities, and in many rural areas as well. It does not change materially in differing geographical areas, nor does it change radically from "conservative" Baptist and Methodist churches to more "modern" churches such as the Church of God in Christ. It has influenced American "pop" music through infusion of the black Spiritual into the mainstream (note the early music of Sam Cooke), and today remains a strong influence on Black jazz musicians, whose improvisation over a matrix of chord changes parallels that of the preacher chanting extemporaneously of secular matters over a guideline sacred in nature.

Even the call-and-response patterns so plentiful in post-bop jazz improvisations (e.g. "trading fours" in which musicians "talk' to each other in four-bar sequences) seem to derive from the church. Jazzmen such as Cannonball Adderley and Lee Morgan loved to imitate the preacher in "vocalizing" many of their solos (those who are interested in this aspect of jazz as influenced by Spirituals may want to hear Adderley's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" or Art Blakey's "Moanin'" recordings, the latter with Lee Morgan on trumpet).

Black Preaching has been largely homogeneous, but what about its chance for survival as a relatively pure oratory form? Literacy was once seen as a threat, some feeling that the colloquial speech so important to the "sound" of the sermon would disappear as the preacher himself became "better educated" (5,96). This has not been the case, as preachers today are educated at all levels, from college, to seminary, to hardly any formal education at all, and still preach in the prescribed manner. The hemistich, colloquial, secular/sacred sermon is insisted upon and enjoyed by the majority of black churchgoers in the U.S., and is probably in as little danger of dying as a unique vocal style as White Presbyterianism. It was once said that the Catholic Church was dying because only "a few little old ladies" bothered to attend anymore, and once they were gone there would be no one left. Every generation, however, produced a new generation of little old ladies; the death knell was quite premature.

The Black Church is still vibrant, with all generations represented. It remains a "home", and a real refuge from the storm, come what may. Its sense of the dramatic, colloquialisms, and emphasis on the secular side of the sacred have kept it away from the white mainstream; relentlessly rhythmic, it had forged itself an identity that will, in all probability, assure its survival for generations to come. Those who love the sermon, and expect the preacher and the congregation to engage in a dialogue often frighteningly powerful in its intensity, continue to find that they're into "something they can't shake loose." "

- Geoff Alex

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 09:39 PM

In my opinion, Pastor Timothy J. Woods, Sr. - Sermon Close.wmv is not only an excellent example of the points that Geoff Alexander made about Black preaching styles, but is also a masterful piece of performance oratory. And I mean this as the highest compliment.

I am very glad that I happened upon this video. I was so impressed by this sermon, that I took the time to transcribe it, though the printed word can not hope to capture the spoken word delivery. For example, I did not include the congregation's responses to the pastor's words. But for every line that he spoke, there was congregational affirmations,exhortations, and other responses. Furthermore, at a point midway in this five minute pluse video, the organist starts playing chords that serve as a response to the pastor's words. The organist {and the pianist?} continue to play in this manner throughout the remainder of the pastor's sermons. I'll indicate when the organist begins playing.

As a means of showing emphasis, some of the beginning letters of words of he sermon are written in capital letters, and some entire words are written in capital letters to show intense emphasis. Following standard practice, the pronoun referencing God and Jesus are written with the beginning letter capitalized. Also, as a means of showing elongation of certain words, I added vowels or consonents to thsoe words.

The video was titled "Pastor Woods @ Antioch MBC - Beaumont, TX". The video contributor was bigalte83 ; November 18, 2008

Neither the video nor the contributor's summary gave a title for this sermon. Based on a repeated line from the sermon, in the interest of this thread, I'll give it the title "Hold On."

And While I was On
Continental Airlines.
I flew from
to Houston.
While I was in Houston Texas-ah
I had to stay there
about an hour
And-an In Houston
there were so many
Aaannnd There Waaas
in Houston
so many shops.
But ah Thank God
that I understood that I wouldn't be there
for a long time.
So what I did was I kept my mind on my destination.
Because my destination was Beumont Texas.

Well yah I wanna close by saying to somebody
Don't confuse your layover with your final distination.
My Lord. You may have a hard time
But can I tell you tha's no t where you gonna be-ee.
because Gooood got a plan for your life.
Can I get a witnesss. I need to close by sayin
Weepin may endure for the night

[Organist starts playing chords in call & response to minister's words ; congregatiom continues their responses]

But joy will come in the mornin
Make up your mind that you gonna hold a little while longer
Because Help is on the way.
Can I tell somebody Don't worry
about your history
Cause your history Is not your destiny
I'm on my way. I said I'm on my way.
Up some times But I'm on my way.
Down some time But I'm on my way

Is there anybody here that is gonna stay focused.
and keep on Going your way.
It may be rough now But just Hold On
Hoooold Onnnn!

I said ah Hold on-ah.
HELP is on the way. Can I tell somebody
I know it's Hard now. But just stay right there.
He may not Come when you want him' but HEEE'lLL.
Yes he will Yes He will
I know He will.

Is there anybody here gonna stay on the road
Is there anybody here that's gonna HOLD ON
I said HOLD ON

He'll make a way---Out of No Way.
Anybody know He will.
Won't he turn it around.
But you gotta Praise Him In Advance.

Before I take my seat Can I tell somebody
You got to give God some 'Bout to praise.
Praise Him for what He's 'bout to do.
Praise him for the Child that's Bout to come home.
Praise Him for the Job that He's Bout to give ya.
Praise Him for your Marriage He's Bout to save
Praise him
You gotta Praise Him.

Let me tell ya one thing. If an Unborn baby
can give God some Premature Praise
John the Baptist
was in his mother's womb.
But when he Heard about JEEESUS
He LEAPED in his mother's womb.
Premature Praise.

If an unborn baby that ain't had to pay no bills.
An unborn baby that ain't never been to the hospital.
An unborn baby that hadn't been LIED on
can give God praise. In Advance
Before he's delivered. Can you Praise Him
Before you come out
Can you praise Him. Is He WORTHY
Is He Worthy.
I said is He Worthy.

Can you wave your hands.
Can you say YEAH!
Say Yeah!
YEAAAAAHHHH1 Won't He show up
YEAHHHH! Halelujah.

I'm through preachin.
I'm just Praisin Him.
because He been good.
I'm just Praisin Him
because I need Him to make a way.
If you PRAISE Him.
Won't He do if for yah.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 10:21 PM

In addition to the points about Black preaching styles that were previously mentioned by Geoff Alexander, let me note that Pastor woods used repeative phrases, and end rhyming words in the fashion that has come to be associated with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Pastor Woods also weaved into his sermon lines from religious songs & folk sayings that are very familiar to his congregation. Furthermore, Pastor Woods used his body to complement and enhance his words. For instance, the pastor leaped when he said that John the Baptist leaped in his mother's womb.

This video does no show what was most certainly the next part of the church service-"opening the doors of the church".

At this time, the musicians would continue playing but [in my experiences] would probably switch to a song that evoked a different kind of emotion than the "hot" sermon. The choir and the congregation might sing a song like "Just As I Am [Without one plea].

The pastor/s come down from the podium to stand in front of the altar [table] which is placed the center of the front of the church. In my experience, the pastor is joined by the head deacons. The pastor tells the congregation that the doors of the church are opened. He {she} uses passages from his sermon, Biblical passages, passages from the song that is being sung, and other religious songs to exhort people to join the church. Individuals who are moved to join the church might previously belonged to another church and have had their memberships "lapse". Or they might currently belong to another church within the same area, but where presuaded by the sermon to join this particular church. And individuals might come foward to the front of the church who have never before belonged to any Christian church.

In my experience, individuals who respond to the pastor's call to join the church don't kneel at the altar, but stand in the front for a brief time until they are whisked into the pastor's office to meet with a deacon or a deaconess. While the deacon and deaconess talk in private with the person who has come forward to join the church, the choir and the congregation continue singing.

At some alloted time, usually no more than five minutes or so, in my home church, the pastor indicates that people are always welcome to join the church at any time {which is an indication that this portion of the church service has ended]. The deacon and deaconess bring the individuals out to the front of the church and introduce one at a time by name, and city, and indicate whether they are a candidate for baptism, or a person who desires to change membership from another church to this church.

There is a voice vote by the congregation to accept the new members and the candidates for baptism {these votes are always unanimous "Ayes". The deacons immediately followed by the deaconess form a single line and shake the hands of the individuals who are still standing at the front of the church.

Theortically anyway, all of these new members and the candidates for baptism are supposed to attend new members class, and Bible classes.
In Baptist churches, at a designated time, the candidates for baptism {who by the way could be as young as five years old in my church} are baptized by emersion in the pool that typically is located in the back of the pastor's podium.

At this point, these newly baptized individuals are true members of the church.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: LilyFestre
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 10:42 PM

I wasn't suggesting your church service was that way at all. *MY* experience has been what I have posted at a few different churches, not all, but several.


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 10:47 PM

With regard to that Geoff Alexander article on Black preaching styles, I need to say that I definitely recognize the scene Alexander paints of church members holding fans that were donated by or purchased from area funeral homes.

However, Alexander then writes that "The women usually sit together in front with their young... The men, who are relaxed and jovial as they joke outside, come in at the last moment and sit near the back. At many services, one or two of them sleep through the sermon."

This description of the church congregation strikes no responsive chords with me at all, and actually strikes rather discordent chords. I definitely do not recognize this description as being true as a matter of rule or as a matter of common practice at my home church or at other Black churches that I have attended.

Apart from this, I still think that Alexander's comments on Black preaching styles were very good.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 08:28 AM

In my 18 Jan 09 - 11:21 AM post to this thread, I asked about the meaning of the word "hoop" as it was used by Ariana Gause in her newspaper article "Faded Memories". In that article, Ms Gause wrote:

"Her [grandmother's] spiritual and religious beckoning has taught me how to appreciate the black church and its traditions. I can relate well to the old hymns sung during revival meetings and on Sunday mornings. Yes, I have a connection to the "Hoop" that black ministers use when preaching the spoken word."


I am 'happy' to say that I have found out what "hoop" means in the context of religious worship.

The pieces of that puzzle fell into place, thanks to the video contributor's tags [key words] and several viewers comments about the YouTube video that I posted earlier, Pastor Timothy J. Woods, Sr. - Sermon Close.wmv.

Among the tags given for that video are "Sermon Close Whooping".

Also, this question was posted about that video:

"Can someone tell me why they sing when they preach? I love these sermons, but I never could understand why they sound like that. Serious question.
nelli2008 {3 weeks ago}


This response was posted:

"It's a combination of the-"Art of Preaching'-Homelitics with a twist of Celebration". Or in modern terms "Whoopology. After the preacher has imparted the word of God into your life, he himself celebrates in his own way and in his own style of closing the sermon On a "Spiritual Praise".
pastorbwiggins {3 weeks ago}


Imo, that comment didn't totally answer the question posed, but I am glad that pastorwiggins included a reference to "whoopology", although I think he may have been somewhat facetious in doing so. See the response to that question that I've posted in that particular video comment section.

But back to the meaning of "hoop", see this additional comment that was posted about that same video:

"He has a great hoop. It's tight."
-Memorial08 {2 months ago}

In this context, the African American slang word "tight" means something or someone who is very good; something that fits together very well; something {including music or a sermon, or a 'hoop'} that is done very well.

After reading these comments, it occurred to me how similar in spelling and pronounciation the word "hoop" and the word "whoop" are. That's when the pieces of the puzzle all came together.

"Hoop" is Black talk for "whoop". "Hoopin'" ="Whooping"

See this meaning of the word "whooping":

a. A loud cry of exultation or excitement.
b. A shout uttered by a hunter or warrior.

The 'hoop' that Ariana Gause remembered Black ministers doing are the 'shouts' and 'moans' and 'cries of joy' that Black ministers incorporate into their sermons because they are feeling the [Holy]. The "hoop" that Pastor Timothy Wood did in his "Hold On" sermon is found throughout that sermon but is particularly found at the end of that sermon.

If I had attended a more 'spirited' Black church, I would have known what 'hoop' meant in a religious context. I'm glad that I found out its meaning as a result of doing research on this thread.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 09:22 AM

Although there certainly are other Black church traditions that could be addressed in this thread, I want to conclude my posting with these points:

In their religious contexts, "hooping" is the same or is similar to "shouting". To be clearer, I believe that "hooping" {"shouting"} is one expression of "getting happy" which is another way of saying "feeling the spirit". Other expressions of "feeling the spirit" are raising one or both hands heavenward, crying, "speaking in tongues", and "doing the holy dance". All of these are said to be manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

See Also read that article for Biblical references to "making a joyful noice unto the Lord", speaking in tongues, and Pentacost/Pentacostal.


In the religious context, "shouting" means making loud, joyful exclamations. This word does not have anything to do with the contemporary Hip-Hop slang term "to give a shout-out". That phrase means to positively recognize someone or a group of people by name in a public setting {as a means of acknowledging their presence and/or paying your respects to him, her, or them}

"I wanna give a shout out to all my homies in AC" =I want to publicly recognize all the people who live in my hometown of Atlantic City {New Jersey}.

The religious use of the word "shout" is found in this familiar verse:

When I get to heaven
I'm gonna sing and shout.
Ain't nobody there
Gonna put me out.


The meaning of "saints" as a referent to person who is saved {a church member in good standing}, clarifies the meaning of this very familiar African American religious song:

"Oh when the saints
go marching in.
Oh when the saints go marching in.
Lord, I want to be in that number.
When the saints go marching in.


I was unfamiliar with the word "Homelitic" as used by pastorbwiggins in his comment. I looked up the definition of that word, and it means "related to homily, sermon".


In his sermon that I'm referring to as "Hold On", Pastor Timothy Woods said "weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning". This saying is a portion of Psalm 30:5 "For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.".

I remember having a tape of a Black choir singing a song made from this verse. But I don't know which choir it was.


In that same sermon, Pastor Woods said "God may not come when you want Him. But He will". This is a version of the very commonly known African American saying "God may not come when you want Him. But He's always on time". This saying is often spoken in a call & response manner. Because this saying is so familiar, a person hearing the beginning of it will not only know how the saying will end, but will often say the ending.


The "MBC" in the name of Pastor Timothy Woods' church probably stands for "Missionary Baptist Church". I'm not sure what the letters 'wmv' stand for.


Thanks to all who have posted to this thread.


Ms. Azizi Powell

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 01:33 PM

I was reminded of this thread, this morning, when CNN was interviewing someone about Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. My friend told me about it, so I don't have all of the names, but after Mahalia Jackson told him to "tell them about your dream" and he turned his written speech over and began to speak, someone said "You're about to go to church, now!" And, then came the cadences we know so well and I hope folks remember there is much more to it than just a few choice phrases.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 02:10 PM

Azizi, thank you for this post. Very informative. My observation of jazz singers is that the Black singers tend (Ella, Sassy, Billie etc.) to use a balanced voice rather than an obligatory belt which is often the product of White singers. I think this may be the effect of the African-American Church as it often acts as a cultural basis for Black jazz singers. The result is that there is a deeper presence in the voice through modulated singing rather than the thinning out of the voice through too much belting.

This is not a racial observation but a cultural one. There is however a propensity for the African-American singing voice to have a strength and flexibility that is suited to this singing style. Again, this is a tendency, not necessarily true in all cases.

There physiology and culture intersect is in the approach to this singing style using a balanced voice with ornamentation that carries over into jazz.


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 11:30 PM

katlaughing & Stringsinger, thank you both for your comments.

Frank, your comment prompted me to return to this thread and prompted me to think about the influence of jazz on gospel music and vice versa.

I intend to post some links to several YouTube videos of gospel music that I think have a jazzy 'favor' to them. But first I need to confess that when you mentioned jazz singers, I didn't know which singer had the nickname "Sassy". Thanks to Google, I learned that "Sassy" was a nickname for Sarah Vaughn.

Here's a excerpt from an article about Sarah Vaughn's church background:

"With only vocal experience in a church choir, a young Sarah Vaughan set her sights on a singing career. It was on the stage of the Harlem Apollo Theater as a contestant that Sarah Vaughan launched her career. She was an untrained singer full of natural raw talent with the amazing ability to improvise and she possessed a three-octave range. By the end of her life, critics and colleagues recognized her as one of the greatest singers in the history of jazz.

Vaughan's Early Gift for Music

Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey into a musical family. Her father, a carpenter, played the guitar and piano, and her mother was a choir member at Mount Zion Baptist Church. Vaughan had a natural gift of music. Her parents nurtured her talent by giving her piano lessons when she was seven years old and organ lessons at eight years old. At twelve, she became the church organist and joined the choir.

Vaughan Gets Her Big Break

By the time that she was nineteen, her vocal talent was apparent. She was encouraged by friends to enter an amateur contest at the Harlem Apollo Theater. She entered, and won $10 along with the opportunity to perform at the Apollo. Jazz singer Billy Eckstine saw her performance, and introduced her to Earl "Fatha" Hines. She joined his band as a vocalist and pianist. Two years later, Eckstine asked her to join his band, which included musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker"...


And while we're on the subject of African American singers who came from a church background, here's another excerpt from an online article:

"A good choir may have three or four really good solo singers. These singers eventually gained a following and typically formed a separate career fronting their own band. The the [sic] majority of the soul music performers of the 60s and 70s were former members of choirs. Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Al Green, Roberta Flack, Solomon Burke, James Brown, and many more, all stood in front of congregations, dressed in robes, learning the ropes of one of the most demanding and intense vocal forms of music. Not all of the best talent left these choirs and turned secular. Mahalia Jackson, Shirley Caesar, and Albertina Walker to name a few, became highly popular soloists. Some of these soloists employ back up singers, or perform as guests with better choirs, but typically the soloist carries the song by her or himself."

Crosscurrents: History of Gospel Music

Also, see this excerpt from that same article:

..."Beginning in 1871 the black Fisk Jubilee Singers, who were students of the all black Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, traveled widely in America internationally with great success singing spirituals. Also, the late 1800s Ragtime was developing into what later a 1917 San Francisco newspaper music critic called "jazz" (alternately spelled "jass").

Gospel music had influenced blues and jazz, and now, by the early
1900s, blues and jazz were in turn, influencing gospel music. for
instance, the syncopated rhythms of ragtime firmly entered many of
church performers approach to existing and newer songs. Many
traveling singing preachers began to accompany themselves with piano
and guitar. The guitar became a popular form of accompaniment due to
the practicality of ease of mobility. Since blues pianists and
guitarists were common nationwide, the singing preachers began to
adopt the chordal and melodic styles of many of bluesmen and women.
Blues and jazz was the popular rage, and served as the spice for
black musical palates, while gospel was the religious staple.
The more theatrical and prosperous traveling preachers and performers sang in revival tents and as guests in churches and missions for the homeless. Many of them traveled with an entourage of musicians and small choirs"...


I could post more, but my suggestion to those who are interested in this subject is to read the entire article.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 12:19 AM

This video features one of my favorite online singing preachers,
Pastor E.Dewey Smith Jr. and several musicians who he identifies as guests of the church:

Down Home Baptism Song - Pastor E.Dewey Smith Jr.

posted on YouTube by BrothaRollins ;January 22, 2008

The pastor, choir, and congregation sing an old Baptism song-which I had not heard before-called "Let's Go Down To The River". At the pastor's prompting, the trumpeter, saxophonist, and guitarist take Instrumental solos.

As he often does, Pastor Smith introduces this song by talking about the songs that his grandparents sung. In portions of this song, the pastor uses a "lining" technique {he says a line which the choir, and congregation repeat}.

I was particularly interested in how the organist plays chords in response to pastor's words. One dynamic that is documented in this video is how the organist and other musicians may continue playing and the choir may continue singing even when the pastor tries to return the church service back to its prepared schedules. While it is true that services are supposed to being and end at specific times, they are unlikely to progress in a straight line toward their closing. The fact that the pastor 'permits' the organist and the other musicians, the choir, and/or members of the congregation to continue making music and singing when he stops singing or when he indicates by word or body motion that they should stop, points out the fluid nature of who {or What} has control of these church services. As an old African American song says "You gotta sing when the spirit says sing".

At some point, the pastor regains control of the service, and it continues along its prepared schedule, although such "Praise Breaks" could occur again.


Toward the end of this video, the pastor makes this reference to the contemporary gospel song "Stomp" by Kirk Franklin
"Talk about "Stomp". Ain't nothing wrong with "Stomp". But stomp can't help you when you out of gas. [meaning gasoline for your car].

It should be noted that most African Americans are bilingual in that we can speak and write mainstream English, and then when we want to we switch to downhome, street African American Vernacular English {AAVE, also known as "Ebonics"}.

As an example, see Pastor Smith's phrasing "Ain't nothing with "Stomp". Also, this quote that was shared earlier in this thread: " can B a lil' stuffy N the mornins @ the cathedraL, but we cutts loose N the"

Even that viewer's name "DisTRAINbound4GLORY" is a way of emphasizing his or her Blackness, and his or her downhomeness {with 'downhome' meaning Southern American roots}.

Does Pastor Smith and DisTRAINbound4GLORY know how to speak and write standard American English? I'm sure that they do. But when they want to, they can also communicate using "Ebonics".

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 12:36 AM

One of the stellar family gospel singing groups is The Clark Sisters.

Here is a link to a classic 1980s video of The Clark Sisters which shows the humor that was mentioned in an earlier post as being an integral part of some gospel sermons [and the singer was indeed 'preaching' when she was introducing this song].

The Clark Sisters- "Is My Living In Vain"

posted on YouTube by Kinfolk68 ; February 22, 2008


Here are several viewer comments about this video or about The Clark Sisters:

"Lawd have mercy...Dorinda was preachin' back then....I think I might use that material in a"
-preacherspreacher (1 month ago)


"Thanks for posting this....The Clark Sisters are awesome! All 5 of them: Jackie, Denise, Twinkie, Dorinda, & Karen....Dr. Mattie Moss Clark was not only a wonderful mother, but a great directress....she trained them well".
-SLUJINMEE88 (8 months ago)


"I remember them coming to England where im from in the 80's they were awesome with their mother who directed the COGIC mass choir over here. We don't get much gospel over here. You Americans are so lucky to have such great music on your doorstep".
-tyhutson08 (8 months ago)


"You're right, tyhutson08. We do take the easy access to gospel music that we have in this coutry for granted. I live in Memphis, and I'm amazed when visitors to our city are shocked that we have more than one 24 hr all gospel radio station. I've learned to be gateful for that now.
-professorlip (8 months ago)

[In response to other comments] "Huh...? I'm not being confrontational, but the Clark Sisters and their music have always been radical and ahead of time. Back in 80's this along with "You Brought the Sunshine" was considered "wordly". It's only considered classic and traditional now because it's nearly 30 years old. But in 1983 there was absolutely nothing "basic" about this song. The Clark Sisters, Hawkins Family, and the Crouches were basically ridiculed for being "wordly" before there was a Kirk Franklin or Tonex"
-professorlip (4 months ago)

This video also shows the jazz flavor of some gospel music.

And, since this discussion thread is supposed to be focused on church service, as an obligatory comment, I encourage you to notice the audience {congregation's} responses to the singers.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 12:55 AM


I meant for the comment about the jazz flavor of the Clark Sister's singing to appear before the samplying of the viewoers' comments.

But since I'm here, I'm going to go slightly off-topic and post a link to a live recording of a jazz instrumental tune that shows its gospel roots:

Mercy, mercy, mercy
posted by s0f0nisba; January 06, 2008

"Joe Zawinul's tune played by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet".


Notice how the audience comments are similar to the exclamations heard in the videos of Black church services.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: GUEST,Dani
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 06:58 AM

"conclude my posting"... I surely hope not, Azizi! I'm really enjoying this thread, and can't wait to come back and explore more when I have time.

Our community's annual MLK celebration yesterday was wonderful, with a gifted (and very young) preacher SO much in the traditional style, but fresh and new, with a real gift for speaking to every heart in the house that would hear. A treasure. He listened to the young winners of the oratorical contest earlier in the day(another tradition to explore!) and quoted them back, weaving them into his sermon.

Thanks for this work, to help point up some very important aspects of a unique and irreplaceable culture.

Ironically, good Mr. Moore was there yesterday too, sitting 2 rows in front of me, and didn't move a muscle, while the rest of us were singing, clapping, etc. : )


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 08:14 AM

Thanks, Dani.

"Happy Inauguration Day" to you and to everyone, regardless of where you live!


And Dani, which "good Mr. Moore" did you refer to in your latest post to this thread?

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 09:16 AM

Changing course a bit, here are some examples of African Christian religious services:

villageef ; July 05, 2008

"This was in Dodoma, Tanzania. the church is pentacostal".

[Note, imo the title of this video is offensive]


How the Africans Worship

angelinnovations; August 26, 2007

"There is nothing like worship in a small intimate church in Africa. This is Pastor Peter's church of True Vine Team Ministries outside Tororo, Uganda. Pastor Peter is sponsored by Fellowship Church of Anthem in Anthem, Arizona".


This mixed age congregation is singing in English, but because of their accents, I can't understand every word that they are singing. However, it appears that they may be singing a "zipper song". A "zipper song" is one in which a verb [or a noun] replaces another in each verse of the song. Which verb [or noun] is substituted for another is often an arbitrary decision. This format is used for such African American spirituals as "I Got Shoes".

In this video the choir appears to be singing:
We are ??? with a mighty Lord
We are ??? with a mighty Lord
We are ??? with a mighty Lord
Hallelujah, our Jesus Christ

[This transcription may not be accurate].


Amazing Grace by Worship Harvest Uganda

WorshipHarvestUg ;May 29, 2008

"Worship Harvest Uganda is a Christian Gospel Group based at House of Praise (HOP) KatiKati Restaurant, Lugogo-bypass. Amazing Grace tune by Worship Harvest. Enjoy".


[Malawi] Catholic Church Singing

kmbrogan ; July 23, 2007

"This Catholic Church was given permission by the Diocese to incorporate traditional dancing and singing into their service. There were very proud

Tags: Africa Singing Malawi Catholic Church "

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 09:36 AM

Here are some more links to videos of African Christian worship services:

Swahili Mass in Nairobi, Kenya

kimschang ;January 07, 2008

"Swahili Mass at St. Austin's Church in Nairobi, Kenya"


Africa Church Dedication Service Worship
regionsbeyond ; November 22, 2007

Tags: Ethiopia Sudan tribe


Somewhat off-topic, there are also a number of professionally produced videos of African gospel singers. Here is one example:

Yesu Nakupenda

vegamuses ; January 20, 2007

"African dancing they don't show you on National...
African dancing they don't show you on National Geographic - Rose Muhando sings praises to Jesus"

{I know only a very little Swahili. I believe the title of this song is "Jesus I Love You"}


United Church of Zambia

spiwemati ; November 30, 2007

"Gospel Music

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 09:52 AM

Here are some comments about the last song whose link I posted,
United Church of Zambia :

From reading a comment from one of the viewers of this video, [buture2010 (1 year ago)], the singer or the choir is named

Here are a few more viewer comments about this song:

"nice harmony i understand zambia a little bit it think its called ynaja"
-beauti1128 (11 months ago)


"This language is called "bemba" or "icibemba" "
-navigatro (8 months ago)

[Here is the link to the Wikipedia page on


"I humble myself in your eyes God and to the people in my journe on this earth. I humble myself in everything I do coz God bless those who humble themselves."
-cranstonecy (4 months ago)

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 10:12 AM

my post of 2:08 story re Unitarian Church


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 11:14 AM

Dani- Oh okay. I see. Thanks!

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 03:38 PM


The last viewer's comment that I posted for the United Church of Zambia song was posted as a summary of what the viewer said the song was about.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 07:05 PM

Here are some links to YouTube videos of church services in the Caribbean:

new years eve church services turks and caicos
WIV4 ; January 03, 2008

This is a television news report of various Watch Night [Church Services] in the Turks and Caicos. Watch Night church services are also held in African American churches on New Year's Eve.


jamaican church

grandpa121791; February 17, 2008

This appears to be a Pentacostal church service. The congregation is worshipping to Reggae religious music.


Holy Ghost Fire!!! Jamaica Free Baptist Church

zemi0210 ; October 20, 2007

"National Ladies' Convention 2006
Jamaica Free Baptist Church"

This call & response song says "Holy Ghost Fire" "Bun Dem" {Burn them}

Fwiw, all the women are wearing hats in these and other Jamaican church videos that I have seen online.


Trinidad church service

iloveredhair ; March 29, 2008

"Take a grip song in the Trinidad Church service"

This video is very brief. But it has a very catchy "zipper song" that the adults and children in the congregation sing while performing the movements indicated by the song's lyrics.

Here's my transcription of the song which is sung to a reggae beat but has basically the same tune as the African American spiritual "Give Me That Old Time Religion".

I've put question marks in brackets when I wasn't sure of the words that were being sun. Note the video does not start at the beginning of the song

Take A Grip {Hold On And Never Let Go]

Take [?] another [?] grip
Hold on and never let go.
No matter what people around you say
Hold on and never let go.

I need somebody
Help me lift Jesus
Need some body
Help me lift Jesus
Need some bodeeee
To help me lift Jesus

Clap your hands and
Help me lift Jesus
Stomp your feet
Help me lift Jesus
Move your body
And help me lift Jesus

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 07:08 PM

These next two links are to YouTube videos of Jamaican church processions:

Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic) Jamaica

Church processional-men and women dancing as they proceed down the chuch aisle


Jamaica Gospel

Church processional-women in pink suits and hats

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 07:16 PM

In this post I'm returning to posting examples of African religious services.

Perhaps this is an obvious point, but nevertheless I want to include this statement that a person's cultural upbringing has a tremendous influence on how he or she worships-including how he or she "gets happy". Notice, for example, the jumping up and down motion that the Ethiopian worshipers have when they feel the spirit. Also, notice the swaying back and forth movements the choirs perform, with or without a cloth or handkerchief in their hands. Surely people have done studies on this topic. I've just never had the good fortune to read any.

Ethiopia Choir Nazreth

Tesema44 ; July 22, 2007
"Nareth Amanuel Ethiopian church and Shibsheba Mezemeran"


Ethiopia Christian worship- "እግዜር፡አምላክ፡ሖነኝ"

Tesema44 ; August 03, 2007
"Ye Nazret (Adama) shebsheba mezemeran, Ethiopia"


Ethiopians Worship in South Africa
ethiopia4jesus ;January 13, 2008

"South Africa Johannesburg, Global Faith Mission Ministries"

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Uncle Phil
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 10:51 PM

Thanks for the interesting and informative thread. I've been reading it with great interest. The worship services you discuss sound like African-American services when I was growing up in Louisiana the 1950s and 60s, though I'm no expert. It was rare for a white kid like me to attend a black church unless there was a wedding or funeral. I remember one funeral in particular where the dearly departed was wheeled in with the choir processional.

Red and white carnations on Mother's Day were a custom at our white church also, so perhaps they are a regional custom rather than a racial custom.

I have family who recently spent time in the interior in Kenya and participated in Protestant services there.

Here is what they say about the church they attended: Church takes up most of the day. It starts with the clergy gathering for an hour or two of prayer and discussion. Folks start arriving from the surrounding villages, all dressed in their very best, though it the rural interior it's nothing fancy. The actual service starts with a processional of clergy and choir. The service features a lot of singing. There are multiple choirs – a youth choir, a women's choir, etc – all of whom perform. The music is sometimes in English and sometimes in Swahili or another indigenous language. There are no robes or music books which are prohibitively expensive. Blessings given by "laying on of hands" are part of most services. The services last for hours and dinner on the grounds is normal.

Here are some random things that made a big impression on the Yanks: In rural Africa time is not a priority - "8:30" church rarely starts before 10:00 and doesn't end at any particular time. The services themselves are intensely emotional beyond what any of my family had seen in white or black churches back home. Finally they were amazed that toddlers walk in from the villages unaccompanied by older children or adults, which would be absolutely unthinkable in the U.S.
- Phil

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Jan 09 - 08:48 AM

Hello, Phil.

You're welcome! And thanks for the your interesting and informative comments.

Here's some information from's_Day regarding wearing carnations on Mothers' Day:

"Carnations have come to represent Mother's Day, since they were delivered at one of its first celebrations by its founder. This also started the custom of wearing a carnation on Mother's Day. A colored flower, usually red, indicates the person's mother is living, and a white flower that she is not. The founder, Anna Jarvis, gave a different meaning to the colors. She only delivered a single white carnation to every person, a symbol of the purity of a mother's love."

[Citations given]

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Jan 09 - 11:04 AM

Here's a link to 1989 video series that provides historical information on Black people in Nova Scotia, Canada:

Black Mother Black Daughter 1989 (PT 2 of 3)

November 14, 2008

See 2:33-6:40 minutes for scenes of an outdoor baptism, and worship at a women's Baptist church convention.

The video contributor provided a very good summary of the history of Black people in Nova Scotia.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Jan 09 - 09:25 AM

I've been looking on YouTube for videos of Black church services in England and Black church services in Brazil and other South American nations. While I have found some videos of Brixton gospel choirs and some videos of the Brazilian religious accapella group, The Communion Quartet, these videos don't show any scenes of actual church services.

However, there is a video of the Communion Quartet in which the church congregation is heard clapping at the end [see link below]. There's no notation to indicate whether the Quartet sung at a church service or at a church program. That distinction may be important because in my experience, applauding at the end of a singer, or choir or musical group's performance to show your appreciation for that musical performance is generally frowned upon in Black churches during the actual religious service.

However, I've seen this done sometimes in the USA, particularly since the 1980s. Sometimes the pastor directs the congregation to applaud a musical number by saying something like "Let's give God the praise". I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about a congregation during a church service applauding a soloist or choir or any other musical group at the completion of a musical selection.

The first time I heard this done I was surprised. I'm "old school" enough to feel that during church services, musicians and singers should be "performing" for God and not for self-and applauding them at that time means to me that they are performing for their praise and not for God's praise. But, I'm sure that people might differ with me on that.

In contrast, it is standard at Black churches [in the USA] to applaud at the completion of musical numbers and talks that are given as part of a church or church related program...

Without further comment, here's the link to the YouTube video of the
Communion Quartet {Brazilian accapella group in London]

June 25, 2007

"Live in Brixton Seventh-day Adventist Church, 23 June 2007"


Here is an English translation of the Portuguese words of this song as posted by scadumateus:

"If you found a heart want need help?
Someone belive in this life never change?
use the time to say the love can turn all.
If you see someone who feels alone?
use the time to say of the LOVE(love of jesus) can turn all"...

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Jan 09 - 06:22 PM

Here is a link to a video of an integrated church service in London, England:

Benny Hinn's Good Friday Service 2008

video posted by BringBackTheCross; March 21, 2008

"from the ExCel Arena, London (March 21, 2008)"


"Toufik Benedictus "Benny" Hinn (Arabic: ÊæÝíÞ ÈäÏßÊæÓ "Èäí" ÇáÍäý, born December 3, 1952) is a televangelist, best known for his regular "Miracle Crusades" – revival meeting/faith healing summits that are usually held in large stadiums in major cities, which are later broadcast worldwide on his television program, This Is Your Day"

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Jan 09 - 06:55 PM

Here's a link to a video of a worship service at church in Haiti

ytrimble ; December 26, 2007

"Missionary workers from World Ministry Outreach in Ft lauderdale planted this church 35 years ago. Final hour church has matured and grown to close to one thousand members on Archachon 32 Carrfour Haiti"

Here are some viewer comments:

"what is the name of the first song....this service reallly lifted my spirit... "
-haiti7 (9 months ago)


"As the deer panted for the water
So my soul longs for you
-ytrimble (9 months ago)

[several viewers posted these words to the second song]

Onksyon an kouvri mwen
Onksyon an kouvri mwen
Se pou tou pouvwa
St espri a kouvri mwen
Onksyon an kouvri mwen

Touche men m bouch mwen ak mwen
Kondi mwen fe m antye
Se pou tout pouvwa
St espri an kouvri mwen
Onksyon an kouvri mwen
-carlsaul1984 (2 months ago)

[The song ends with the male soloist saying "Hallelujah!"]


Both of these songs are beautiful. I wrote a comment asking for the Creole words and English translation for the first song, and the English translation for the second song. I also asked additional information about these songs. If I get a response, I'll post it on this thread.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jan 09 - 08:47 AM

This Mudcat thread contains comments about the unique hat that Soul singer Aretha Franklin wore to President Obama's inauguration, 1/20/2009:

That Hat - Aretha Franklin singing at inauguration .

That thread also includes a number of comments about the custom of women wearing hats in Black churches and in non-Black churches within the USA and elsewhere.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jan 09 - 08:56 AM

Here's an excerpt from an online review of the photographic book:
Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats by Michael Cunningham & Craig Marberry

[shown there with the cover photo]

"Countless black women would rather attend church naked than hatless. For these women, a church hat, flamboyant as it may be, is no mere fashion accessory; it's a cherished African American custom, one observed with boundless passion by black women of various religious denominations. A woman's hat speaks long before its wearer utters a word. It's what Deirdre Guion calls "hattitude...there's a little more strut in your carriage when you wear a nice hat. There's something special about you." If a hat says a lot about a person, it says even more about a people-the customs they observe, the symbols they prize, and the fashions they fancy.

Photographer Michael Cunningham beautifully captures the self-expressions of women of all ages-from young glamorous women to serene but stylish grandmothers. Award-winning journalist Craig Marberry provides an intimate look at the women and their lives. Together they've captured a captivating custom, this wearing of church hats, a peculiar convergence of faith and fashion that keeps the Sabbath both holy and glamorous".


And here's a link to an online review of the photographic book:

Soul Sanctuary: Images of the African American Worship Experience by Jason Miccolo Johnson (Author), Gordon Parks (Contributor), Cain Hope Felder (Contributor), Barbranda Lumpkins Walls (Contributor), Dr. H. Beecher Hicks (Contributor)

"SOUL SANCTUARY is a photographic celebration of the most influential institution in the black communitythe black churchand its unique worship experience. The first illustrated gift book to depict the spiritual dimension of the black church and the pride that prevails within the church-going family, SOUL SANCTUARY is a multidenominational journey into the heart of the black worship experience. Churches in small rural and urban storefronts and large inner-city and suburban mega churches are featured. As the official photographer for Washington, DCs African Methodist Episcopal Church for the past 25 years, Jason Miccolo Johnson is a passionate church insider. His unique status gives his work a rare quality of intimacy as he captures the unbridled spirit of the black church through its congregants facial expressions and body language, their uniforms and dress, and, ultimately, the dignity of their worship.

About the Author
Jason Miccolo Johnson has been the African Methodist Episcopal Church's official photographer for the past 25 years. He has covered the annual conventions of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Church of God in Christ, and the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. He is a former production assistant at ABC Network News' Good Morning America in Washington, D.C.

Barbranda Lumpkins Walls is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience in newspapers, magazines, and online media. She spent 13 years as an editor at USA Today and was managing editor at Heart & Soul, a healthy lifestyles magazine for African-American women, and then programming director for AOL Black Voices".

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jan 09 - 09:37 AM

I said I wasn't going to post any more examples, but someone refreshed this Mudcat thread:

Lyr Add: Let Your Light Shine on Me

And that led me to revisit this video whose link I had posted to that thread:

Shine on Me

August 01, 2006

Summary description by its poster: "This is a song of a Youth For Christ concert in Jacksonville, Florida in 2005. This young man rip'd dis song! OFF DA CHAIN!"


This video shows the "call & response" pattern between the soloist {the caller] and the organist [the responder]. The video also shows how the soloist interjects spoken word 'preaching' within his rendition of the song, and how the soloist feels the spirit and briefly "speaks in tongues", and then does "the holy dance". The audience's responses to the soloist's singing and actions are also shown in this video.

Also, at one point the soloist says "Give God some praise", and the choir who had been standing behind him silently and the congregation clapped their hands in applause.

This provides me with the opportunity to say that I have to modify the comment that I made earlier in this discussion thread that Black church congregations don't applaud at the end of musical selections that are performed during church services.

As some videos clearly show, there are some Black congregations who applaud at the end of musical selections, and there are some Black congregations who would look upon such applause as being very inappropriate.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Stringsinger
Date: 24 Jan 09 - 12:30 PM


Thank you so much for a very interesting thread.

Have you mentioned Sister Rosetta Thorpe? Also, Vera Hall, Staple Singers,
Lou Rawls and the Pilgrim Travelers? (one of my fave gospel groups).

Also, mention of the Golden Gate Quartet, a highly influential swinging group.

Dixie Hummingbirds.

I had the honor of accompanying Mahalia Jackson on the Studs Terkel Radio Show on
WFMT in the Fifties. Such a warm person! She called everyone "Baby" and we called her

My late friend Odetta had an interesting intersection with church singing and folk music. She was a Congregationalist when I knew her. It wasn't a black church but undoubtably she had exposure to much of it in the Los Angeles area.

I once took Pete Seeger down to the St. Paul Baptist Church on Central Avenue in Los Angeles to see a 100 piece moving choir. Unfortunately, it was presided over by the dubious ministry of Reverend Branham. The music was superb. I remember one night when one of the singers (who was being broadcast on the local radio station) got so full of glory that he headed out into the congregation and matrons had to pull him back to the microphone. It was there that I first heard "Precious Memories" by Stuart Hamblen (a C and W writer) and their theme song. (Not "Precious Lord" by Thomas Dorsey which they also sang. It's interesting that Thomas A. Dorsey, accompanist for Mahalia Jackson was formerly "Georgia Tom" who had a hit with "Tight Like That", an early party blues.

On Central Avenue, there were a lot of store front churches and the congregations sang
without music books.

I think that there is a marked difference in musical styles between Gospel and Spiritual music. Spiritual was more a cappella and gospel instruments defined the difference.

Gospel music churches often had jazz musicians sitting in on Sunday mornings tired from their late night gigs. Barry Gordy's Motown was an incorporation of Gospel music style into pop in the Detroit area. If you listen to Jamie Jamerson's prodigious bass playing, you can hear the left hand of a good gospel organ player. The intersection of gospel music and pop music is prevalent. Aretha, Carla Thomas, etc.

Applause in the Black Church was when the spirit lifted the congregant, not because of the performance. Often, three or four loud claps was intended to raise the "spirit".
This was often done when the preacher hit a responsive note.

Erik Darling of the Weavers attempted to introduce the gospel musical style into the group. He lead a "Fight On" and "In That New Jerusalem". I guess the jury is out about
how successful it was but I thought Erik lead it well. ('Specially for a white guy).

I accompanied Brother John Sellers at the Gate of Horn in Chicago. He could whip up
the crowd single-handed. He was a lovely guy.


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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jan 09 - 05:18 PM

You're welcome, Frank.

I appreciate your mention of those wonderful gospel singers. The only reason that I didn't mention them and other gospel and spiritual singers is because the focus of this thread is characteristics of Black church services and not the particular singers, groups, or choirs.

That said, I'm very glad that you've added your memories of specific singers, and your general comments about Black churches. Your comments greatly enrich this thread.

With regard to singing with music books, during the Black Baptist church services that I've attended, there's at least one congregational hymn or song whose words are found in a hymnal. The congregation usually is asked to stand to sing this song {in the old days, the page number would be written with removable numbers on a board that was hung on the right hand side of the front wall facing the congregation.

The handclapping that I am referring to occurs as applaise after the end of a musical selection and not as a form of accompaniment of that music. My memory is that applauding wasn't done in the churches that I went to and my belief is that this is seldom done. But I see from some online videos that Black congregations do indeed applaud at the end of the choir's singing.

Which goes to show that somethings are the same and somethings are different in Black church services within the USA and in Black church services throughout the world.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 12:38 PM

Some things that change in Black church services aren't really noticed until you think about them in a "what ever happened to" kind of way. For me, double time hand clapping is like that.

Although it's decidedly off-topic, here's a link to a YouTube video of Rwanda, East Central Africa which shows singers clapping double time:

Traditional Kinyarwanda Song Ndare and Dance - Sandra K 2002

I thought this might be of interest to this thread's readers.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 01:06 PM

My mistake. That last video was of singers and dancers in Kampala, Uganda {East Central Africa}.

Kampala is the capital city of Uganda.

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Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 01:23 PM

And since I posted that video, here's another which starts of with call & response exhortations and then singing that remind me of many Black church services:

Sandra Dances with Roots Afrika [Uganda]

posted to YouTube by GretScot; July 30, 2007


"Sandra" is Sandra Karigirwa. In the summary of the previous Ugandan dance video that I posted in this thread, the video contributor wrote that he knew Sandra in 2000 when she sang a similar song at the Tender Talents school in Kasangati.

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