Nov. 2, 2004
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
Rev. Safiyah Fosua is director of invitational preaching ministries at
the United Methodist Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn.
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A group of worship experts is creating the DNA for new liturgy in black churches across the globe.
instructors, pastors, editors and curriculum writers converged Oct.
27-29 in Nashville to discuss how to write worship liturgy that is
authentic to "Africana" populations — people of African descent from a
number of ethnic, cultural and national backgrounds.
gathering, convened by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship,
marked the beginning of formal conversation on Africana liturgy. The
meeting responded to a need in black United Methodist churches for
liturgy that is more specific to the congregations’ context, life
experiences, faith expressions and history, according to the Rev.
Safiyah Fosua, director of invitational preaching ministries at the
need includes resources that reach inner-city churches, churches that
should be filled with youth and young people, and churches serving
"regular people who work and sweat to pay bills and worry about keeping
their children out of gangs," Fosua said.
especially in the United Methodist Church, includes material that
everyone can say together, but one size does not always fit all. Liturgy
is a ritual way to move toward God, Fosua said. "It does not have to be
trapped in language that is unfamiliar or uncomfortable to speak, but
be words, actions, expressions, or symbols that move people toward God."
How do we make it to
God on Sunday? Fosua asked. There are times when the rituals and forms
of the church serve as a "fence instead of a door," she said. "Liturgy
should help people come into the presence of God and not stand as a
barrier between them and God."
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
Rev. Valerie Bridgeman-Davis, assistant professor at Memphis (Tenn.)
Theological Seminary, and Maurice Carter, a Nashville, Tenn., musician,
write liturgy for black congregations.
worship liturgy that needs to be created has to balance a lot of
flavors and be contexualized more than it currently is," said the Rev.
Valerie Bridgeman-Davis, assistant professor of preaching and worship at
Memphis (Tenn.) Theological Seminary.
of the struggles in worship, she said, is that "we’ve bought into the
idea that worship has to answer questions. Worship should ask questions.
It should be an opening into people’s lives," she said. "Today, it is
hermetically sealed when it ought to leave people with the awe and
mystery of God."
three intense days, the participants studied and began the process of
producing resources for United Methodist churches worshipping in the
many traditions of Africana.
are making statements of faith relevant to the present realities of our
communities," Bridgeman-Davis said. A need exists for liturgy that
recaptures lost culture, lost song and the voice of lost community, she
said. "There is no such thing as the African-American community. There
are communities ... there are different communities."
are needed for the four parts of worship – the gathering, the word, the
intercession and the sending forth – and for special occasions and
observances. "The goal is to create resources that take seriously the
bodily experience of worshipping God," Bridgeman-Davis said.
should move people beyond one or two hours on Sunday to live out their
faith the entire week, she said. A problem with current liturgy is that
it often lacks the sound that comes from people’s hearts, and it lacks
movement, ritual or rhythm, she said.
term "ritual" goes beyond the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion,
she said. Ritualized worship engages the body, soul, spirit and mind in
a way that enables people to carry the experience into their lives.
have the opportunity in creating new liturgy and resources to be the
vanguard and rearguard, to help African American churches bring about
the historic presence of the church, and help create a revivalistic
movement to have a lasting and prophetic voice to bring about God’s
kingdom," said the Rev. Fred Allen, director of African-American
resources at the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville.
the Rev. Junius Dotson, pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in
Wichita, Kan., the liturgical gathering was sorely needed. He seeks
liturgy and litanies that reflect the experience of African people, he
said. "Something authentic comes out of the experiences of the people
that you minister to."
Materials developed from the gathering will be available on www.umcworship.org by the end of 2004.
gathering also learned that the United Methodist Publishing House is
developing a hymnal for African-American churches. The new songbook,
expected to be released in 2006, will be Afrocentric and similar to the
23-year-old Songs of Zion. It will contain about 250 songs from a wide range of genres and will draw from Africana traditions.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.