Excerpt: Anointed To Sing The Gospel – Postscript Finalist: Indie Independent Book Awards- African American Category- 2016

“…In the early years of gospel Rev. Dorsey,… and   others…there was a greater attempt to remain true  to speaking the word of God for exhortation, edification and comfort in ways that are not  necessarily predominant now because gospel has become an industry in which the goal is to  sell records….(Teal)

The Father of Gospel Music

Gospel music has evolved from the early bluesy and jazz chords of the 20th century.  Historic gospel is father and grandfather of modern and contemporary gospel.  Secular and sacred, soul and pop, profane and spiritual are all now a part of what is considered ‘gospel music’.Black sacred music is based on the norms established by our ancestors who created this genre of music.  Those norms that evolved from slavery were expressed in the music of the slaves.  The music was collective.  It acknowledged the oppression that existed in the lives of the enslaved Africans.  There was a prophetic critique in the music which spoke of consequences and rewards. Their music spoke to the injustice of slavery.

It has become increasingly difficult to determine whether the music being sung is secular or sacred.  The word Jesus is used often to intimate that it is.  The lyrics, however, in many instances do not.  Gospel music is a money maker for the recording industry.  It has grown from a million to a billion dollar industry.  Sacred artists are recording with secular artists, agents, and musicians.

Children and adults born after the Civil Rights Movement rarely know songs from the historic, classical, or golden ages in gospel.  It is important to honor our sacred music and its rich heritage.  Too many musicians no longer read music.  Hymnbooks are becoming obsolete.

Black sacred music, historically, has always addressed the social injustice and struggles of Black people in America.  The spirituals were the first songs that collectively expressed the pathos of slavery and oppression.  They contain the essence of what we define as black sacred music.  They established the criteria of what we called black sacred music. Church music has a sacred duty and pastors have the charge to keep the traditions of our musical heritage alive in the 21st century.

Is worship merely in the eye of the beholder? Can sacred worship operate in a secular worship space?  Is worship in twenty-first century African American churches “held hostage” to the secular commercialization of sacred music (Schaffer Interview)?  If that is true – then– what will we do to reclaim our sacred musical heritage?   The choice and decision is ours.

Church music has a sacred duty and pastors have the charge to keep the traditions of our musical heritage alive in the 21st century.  Church music and worship in the 21st century is the responsibility of all involved in sharing the gospel message.   This invitation to action is extended to pastors, seminaries, ministers of music. Christian education departments, music organizations, religious and music workshop planners, and most importantly – worshippers of God – are asked to review their Levitical heritage.


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