|IVCF Rockbridge 2010|
Falling in Love with Gospel Music
But I vividly remember attending my first gospel concert during my freshman year. I only went to support a couple of my friends who were members of the Umoja Gospel Choir. They sang Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker, and Kirk Franklin--and I loved it.
Not long after, the InterVarsity chapter at my school did a joint weekend retreat with Umoja that profoundly shaped my worldview and racial awareness. I learned that racism was alive on our campus, and that it personally affected the people around me every day. I learned that God created race, and wants us to celebrate it, not ignore it (Revelation 7:9, Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). I learned how much I was missing out on. And that I could have a role in effecting change.
And I learned about music. I learned about Donnie McClurkin and Richard Smallwood. I began to attend churches with friends where I heard music by the Clark Sisters, Mighty Clouds of Joy, and the Mississippi Mass Choir. I felt myself growing from ambivalence to tolerance, and from tolerance to affirmation. And then I found myself connecting to God in a way I had never experienced before.
Loving God More Through Gospel Music
Gospel music became part of my own heart music--one of the ways I worshiped God that resonated with the core of my soul. I didn't leave behind other music I worshiped with, but gospel music helped me connect to aspects of God that I hadn't previously been accessing.
|The talented Michael Coleman|
Through gospel music, I also learned to give God not just my mind and my intellectual understanding of him, but my emotions and my heart as well. I could dance, I could cry, I could shout. God could handle it. I learned to offer praise no matter my circumstances and to trust that God was sovereign through it all. When I struggled in my studies, I could lean in with Shirley Caesar, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. When was rejoicing in God's greatness I could jam to Tye Tribbett or Lonnie Hunter. No matter what I was going through, God was good.
|Now with the Ubuntu Choir 4 All People|
Since leaving college, I've continued to lean in to the lessons God has for me through gospel music. Church 4 All People has introduced me to Walter Hawkins, Dorothy Norwood, and Kurt Carr. Most recently, I've enjoyed going farther back to the Blind Boys of Mississippi, Mahalia Jackson, and powerful old spirituals.
Ironically, many of these songs were once considered "devils music" in white congregations (not unlike how rap and hip hop are sometimes treated by the Church today). The survival of this music came at a high cost for many artists whose royalties were stolen, careers marginalized, and lives threatened. And yet much of our modern music is derived from these roots. I'm grateful to those who made sacrifices so it could thrive today.
We miss out on so much of God's character when we limit our means of interacting with Him.We need to worship in His holiness, as well as His kindness. We need to understand His mercy, as well as His strength. Take time this week to explore worship music you are less familiar with. Join a gospel choir, sing in a different language, try dancing, or mime. No single culture or genre will ever be enough to express the magnitude of God' character.
I've had so much fun listening to good music in preparation for this post. I couldn't name them all. Who are your favorites? Leave your comments below.