Black History Month – USA

How is our language in worship shaped by race?

What colours do we see as we speak the words of our faith?

Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. -Psalm 68:31

How might the colour of Jesus effect our devotion?

Black History Month (October in UK, February in USA) offers Christians the opportunity to use worship words that include and celebrate diversity, past and present.  Black History Month UK website provides reflective words in a Poets Corner.

IMG_4036(a section from Maya Angelous’s poem “Solidarity”)
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes,
Into your brother’s face,
And say simply
Very simply
With hope, Good Morning.
 Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was an American poet, author and civil rights activist.

Education for Justice USA provides a prayer service for Black History month which includes a series of quotes from famous African Americans interwoven with prayerful reflections.  The opening verses are taken from the Jewish prophet, Isaiah, 11:1-10.  Voices quoted include Alice Walker, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.  The language is not always inclusive.  For the complete prayer service click here.

Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church USA provides suggestions for music to use during Black History Week.

“Celebrate Black History Month in your worship services by exploring the rich diversity of hymnody and song that has been born out of the African American experience.The collection, Beams of Heaven, containing 46 hymns of Charles Tindley, is a treasure for you to share with your congregation as a part of Black History Month.”   Read more.

What Churches Can Do to Uncover the Black Presence in the Bible During Black History Month and Lent:

  • If you use Biblical images, make sure they are historically accurate.
  • Utilize the African Heritage Study Bible, edited by Dr. Cain Hope Felder of Howard Divinity School, which includes essays and maps to aid your Bible study. Each passage of Scripture related to Africa is highlighted.

Reading List:

    • How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity (InterVarsity Press) by Thomas C. Oden, who dedicated his life to uncovering of the buried treasure of African Christianity.
    • Africa’s Roots in God by Rev. Dr. Sed Yankson, Pastor of East New York SDA Church & Akan Royalty.
    • The Black Presence in the Bible: Discovering the Black and African Identity of Biblical Persons and Nations by Dr. Walter A. McCray, President of The National Black Evangelical Association.

Onleilove Alston is the Executive Director of PICO Faith in NY, a board member and contributing writer for Sojourners, and founder of Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering the Black Biblical Destiny, an organization dedicated to uncovering the Black presence in the Bible via workshops, lectures, Bible study and devotional material.  This was originally written for article in Sojourners Magazine.

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