The Old Ship of Zion: Salvation, Saints, and Spirituals
Deep Is the Hunger Emancipation from the Slavery of Sin
Deep Is the Hunger Emancipation from the Slavery of Sin “It has always been an extremely strange fact that, both during the days of slavery and during the first decade after the war, so few individuals escaped complete demoralization and so few developed neuroses. It seems to me that we shall find an explanation in the conversion narratives” (Paul Radin).
Daniel Alexander Payne “The slaves are sensible of the oppression exercised by their masters; and they see these masters on the Lord’s day worshiping in His holy Sanctuary. They hear their masters professing Christianity; they see their masters preaching the Gospel;...
Daniel Alexander Payne... they hear these masters praying in their families, and they know that oppression and slavery are inconsistent with the Christian religion; therefore they scoff at religion itself—mock their masters, and distrust both the goodness and justice of God. Yes, I have known them even to question His existence.”
“I was a lost sinner and a slave to Satan; and soon I saw that I must make another escape from another tyrant. I did not by any means forget my fellow-bondmen, of whom I had been sorrowing so deeply, and travailing in spirit so earnestly; but I now saw that while man had been injuring me, I had been offending God;... (James Pennington).
... and that unless I ceased to offend him, I could not expect to have his sympathy in my wrongs; and moreover, that I could not be instrumental in eliciting his powerful aid in behalf of those for whom I mourned so deeply” (James Pennington).
Spiritual Nobility: From Hellcat to Heaven Saint “I love you as though you never hit me a lick, for the God I serve is a God of love” (Charlie).
Spiritual Nobility: From Hellcat to Heaven Saint “I had felt the power of God and tasted his love, and this had killed all the spirit of hate in my heart years before this happened. Whenever a man has been killed dead and made alive in Christ Jesus, he no longer feels like he did when he was a servant of the devil.... (Charlie).
Spiritual Nobility: From Hellcat to Heaven Saint... Sin kills dead, but the Spirit of God makes alive. I didn’t know that such a change could be made, for in my younger days I used to be a hellcat” (Charlie).
The Invisible Institution: More Than Just Sunday Meetings
Slave chapel at Mansfield plantation, Georgetown County, South Carolina Enslaved preacher under the watchful eye of the Master.
The Old Ship of Zion “The church was ‘Noah’s Ark’ that shielded one’s life from the rain. It was the ‘old ship of Zion’ fully capable of sailing the seas of life” (Harold Carter).
Cross-Cultural Ministry: Solomon Northrup Though recognizing the inconsistency of his master, William Ford, a slave-owning Baptist preacher, Northup still notes, “... it is but simple justice to him when I say, in my opinion, there never was a more kind, noble, candid, Christian man than William Ford.”
Spiritual Conversation “He interacted with me in regard to the various fears and emotions I had experienced during the day and night, and if I had felt, at any time, a desire to pray. I felt forsaken of the whole world, I answered him, and was praying mentally all the while.”
The Invisible Institution “We used to steal off to the woods and have church, like the Spirit moved us— sing and pray to our own liking and soul satisfaction—and we sure did have good meetings, honey—baptize in the river, like God said.... We were quiet enough so the white folks didn’t know we were there, and what a glorious time we did have in the Lord.”
More Than Sunday Meetings “Meetings back there meant more than they do now. Then everybody’s heart was in tune, when they called on God they made heaven ring. It was more than just Sunday meeting and then no more godliness for a week. They would steal off to the fields and in the thickets and there, with heads together around a kettle to deaden the sound, they called on God out of heavy hearts” (Preacher from a God-fearing Plantation).
Sharing the Word Mentoring Testifying Exhorting Preaching Everybody Could Be a Somebody
Mentoring and One Anothering “Arrangements are then made for conducting the exercises. They first ask each other how they feel, the state of their minds, etc. The male members then select a certain space, in separate groups, for their division of the meeting.
Testifying: Encounters with God Every believer had the opportunity, as led by the Spirit, to testify. In testifying, men and women told the stories of their encounters with God. In narrative fashion, they articulated common spiritual realities, provided proverbial wisdom for life’s journey, shared advice concerning the normal problems of life, offered consolation, and, when necessary, confronted the community.
Testifying: Interpersonal Consolation “The slave forgets all his suffering, except to remind others of the trials during the past week, exclaiming, ‘Thank God, I shall not live here always!’ Then they pass from one another, shaking hands, bidding each other farewell, and promising, should they meet no more on earth, to strive to meet in heaven, where all is joy, happiness and liberty. As they separate, they sing a parting hymn of praise” (Peter Randolph).
Exhorting: Soul Physicians James Smith shares about his exhorting ministry. “Soon after I was converted I commenced holding meetings among the people, and it was not long before my fame began to spread as an exhorter. I was very zealous, so much so that I used to hold meetings all night, especially if there were any concerned about their immortal souls.”
Preaching “... Preaching in order by the brethren; then praying and singing all around, until they generally feel quite happy. The speaker usually commences by calling himself unworthy, and talks very slowly, until feeling the spirit, he grows excited, and in a short time, there fall to the ground twenty or thirty men and women under its influence” (Peter Randolph).
Preaching “I heard them slaves get up with a powerful force of spirit, clapping their hands and walking around the place. They’d shout, ‘I got the glory. I got the old time religion in my heart.’ I seen some powerful figurations of the spirit in them days. Uncle Billy preached to us and it was right good preaching” (Mose Hursey). Mose Hursey, former slave, Red River County, TX, photographed c. 1938
The Black Preacher “He early appeared on the plantation and found his function as the healer of the sick, the interpreter of the Unknown, the comforter of the sorrowing, the supernatural avenger of wrong, and the one who rudely but picturesquely expressed the longing, disappointment, and resentment of a stolen and oppressed people.” W. E. B. Du Bois
The Black Preacher... Thus, as bard, physician, judge, and priest, within the narrow limits allowed by the slave system, rose the Negro preacher, and under him the first Afro- American institution, the Negro church.” W. E. B. Du Bois
Praising the Lord When sharing the Word, African American believers heard from the Lord through one another. In praising the Lord, they spoke to the Lord with one another.
Praying “We used to slip off in the woods in the old slave days on Sunday evening way down in the swamps to sing and pray to our own liking. We prayed for this day of freedom. We come from four and five miles to pray together to God that if we don’t live to see it, to please let our children live to see a better day and be free, so that they can give honest and fair service to the Lord and all mankind everywhere” (Alice Sewell).
Singing “I remember one old song we used to sing when we meet down in the woods back of the barn. Oh, Mother lets go down, lets go down, lets go down, lets go down. Oh, Mother lets go down, down in the valley to pray. As I went down in the valley to pray, Studying about that good ole way, Who shall wear that starry crown? Good Lord, show me the way” (Jonas Bost, Newtown, NC).
Singing Most significant is his concluding memory. “Then the other part was just like that except it said ‘Father’ instead of ‘Mother,’ and then ‘Sister’ and then ‘Brother.’”
The Spirituals: The Fuel of the Invisible Institution
A Sorrowful Joy: Tragedy Transformed into Triumph “Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope—a faith in the ultimate justice of things. The minor cadences of despair change often to triumph and calm confidence” (W. E. B. Du Bois).
A Sorrowful Joy: Tragedy Transformed into Triumph “Joyful sorrow, sorrowful joy, or more accurately, sorrow merging into joy arose from the suffering of the slaves’ lives, a suffering that was touched, however, and so transformed, by the living presence of God” (Albert Raboteau).
Spontaneous, Spirit-Led Soul Care “Sometimes the colored folks go down in dugouts and hollows and hold there own service and they used to sing songs what come a-gushing up from the heart” (Rev. Carey Davenport, Texas).
Communal Empathy “I’ll tell you; it’s this way. My master called me up and ordered me a hundred lashes. My friends see it and is sorry for me. When they come to the praise meeting that night they sing about it. Some’s very good singers and know how; and they work it in, work it in, you know; till they get it right; and that’s the way.”
Heaven Invading Earth Thomas Wentworth Higginson Flag of the First South Carolina Volunteers Colored Unit
Heaven Invading Earth Thomas Wentworth Higginson “The attitude is always the same. Nothing but patience for this life and nothing but triumph in the next. Sometimes the present predominates, sometimes the future; but the combination is always implied.”
I Want to God Home Dere’s no rain to wet you, O, yes, I want to go home. Dere’s no sun to burn you, O, yes, I want to go home; O, push along, believers, O, yes, I want to go home. Dere’s no hard trials, O, yes, I want to go home. Dere’s no whips-a-crackin’, O, yes, I want to go home.
Joyful Sorrow: Mingling Suffering and Joy “The wild, sad strains tell, as the sufferers themselves never could, of crushed hopes, keen sorrow, and a dull daily misery which covered them as hopelessly as the fog from the rice- swamps. On the other hand, the words breathe a trusting faith and rest in the future—in ‘Canaan’s fair and happy land,’ to which their eyes seem constantly turned” (Lucy McKim Garrison).
Nobody Knows the Trouble I See Nobody knows the trouble I see, Nobody knows like Jesus, Nobody knows the trouble I see, Glory hallelujah!
Songs of the Soul and of the Soil “A very real part of the worship of Black people is the songs of Zion. Singing is as close to worship as breathing is to life. These songs of the soul and of the soil have helped to bring a people through the torture chambers of the last three centuries” (William McClain).
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, A long way from home, A long way from home.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone, A long way from home.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child Sometimes I feel like I got no home, A long way from home, A long way from home. True believer, true believer, A long way from home. A long, long way from home.
We Have Been with Jesus I want Jesus to walk with me; All along my pilgrim journey, I want Jesus to walk with me. In my trials, Lord, walk with me; When my heart is breaking, Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.
Trouble Doesn’t Last Always No more weeping and a-wailing, I’m goin’ to live with God. Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world, Troubles of the world, The troubles of the world. Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world. Goin’ home to live with God.
There Is a Balm in Gilead There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole, There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sin-sick soul. There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole, There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sin-sick soul.
There Is a Balm in Gilead Sometimes I feel discouraged And think my work’s in vain, But then the Holy Spirit Revives my soul again. There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole, There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sin-sick soul.
There Is a Balm in Gilead If you cannot sing like Peter, If you cannot preach like Paul, You can tell the love of Jesus, And say He died for all. There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole, There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sin-sick soul (Repeat).
Following the North Star God Is On the Side of the Suffering
Following the North Star “Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds—his name is the LORD—and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing” (Psalm 68:4-6)
Our Great Cloud of Witnesses 1.Embracing African American Worship and Fellowship 2.Embracing Acts 2 Christianity 3.Embracing Multicultural Worship 4.Embracing the Spirituals
Beyond the Suffering Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction Hebrews 12:1-3 “So Great a Cloud of Witnesses”