Cross-blog Considerations on “Ethnic” Music and Spirituals

Just to alert our readers to a number of excellent, thought-provoking, cross- blog considerations relevant to liturgical music and of interest to at least some Pray Tell readership:

Sonja, one of the regularly contributing authors at Women In Theology (WIT) opens with “Ethnic” Hymns in White Churches; Katie, another WIT author, follows up with “Ethnic” Hymns in White Churches Take Two.

Andrew, a contributor for Memoria Dei, furthers the discussion from a different perspective with The untold significance of African American spirituals.

Today, Rod of Alexandria at Political Jesus has advanced the conversation with his contribution Take 4: The Sorrow Songs & Black Churches. (H/T to Katie at WIT for alerting me to this.)

If you are not already familiar with these fine blogs, all written from very different perspectives, you might take some time after reading the above articles to poke around their archives — rich theology unfolding in all these venues.


  1. This topic, not surprisingly, is of much interest to those of us in the world of publishing music and other resources for liturgy! SoI really appreciate the broadening of perspectives in this discussion.

    When the rapture failed a few weeks ago, I watched an interview with Obery Hendricks (The Politics of Jesus) talking about how the end-time predictors in the evangelical church use this as a tool to divert systemic and economic justice in society. He also makes mention of the kinds of songs/hymns used in the African-American church that get used to encourage people to INaction – “Just Leave it to Jesus” – which reminded me of some of that same dynamic present in the slave songs (the ones that truly originated in 18th/19th c. US slave culture): I’m captive now, but one day in heaven I’ll be free.

    The interview is here:
    Obery Hendricks is a few minutes into the clip.

    As the advocacy for ethnic diversity grows, I’ve also found myself wondering why this seems to be a value mostly promoted for (or sometimes imposed on) white congregations. I get the role of white society (and again, it seems to be OK to lump/stereotype all “white” people together) in the reality of racial inequality, but our singing of “Were You There?” for the past 40 years doesn’t seem to have changed much of that. Hence the need to learn more about the authentic origins/meanings of “spirituals” (and learn things like “Goin’ Home” isn’t this kind of a spiritual – it’s a melody by Dvorak that a student of Dvorak wrote words for.)

    By the way, here’s a graphic of what congress would look like if it truly represented the US:

    So until we build the bridge between the music for our prayer and political advocacy, let me add my thanks, Cody, for pointing us to these locations where we can encounter more aspects of and opinions about this topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.