Meaning of Prelude Songs Played By Chenaniah
Deep River is a song intended to offer advice to slaves who wanted to runaway, telling them that escaping by a river, the water would wash away their scent and deter hounds from following their trail.
Jacob's Ladder is a reference from the Old Testament in Genesis, Chapter 28. Jacob has a dream about a stairway resting on earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. The lyrics of the song reflect the spiritual reverence for God and the hope of salvation, freedom and happiness that fills this song with energy. The words "soldiers of the cross" is a reminder of both the devotion to God and the devotion to fight for freedom.
Steal Away To Jesus literally means to follow the teachings of Christ, but it doesn't take too much imagination to understand it is a call to meeting. Listeners would sneak off to the woods to learn to read, plan an escape or organize an uprising. On the literal side, the Lord summons the listener to be faithful in order to receive the blessing of a good life in heaven. For the slaves, the song was a directive to run away to freedom. "He calls me by the thunder" means to leave in a rainstorm so the dogs won't have a scent to pick up and footprints will wash away. "Green leaves are bending" tells the slaves to leave in the spring or summer. "Tombstones are bursting" tells them to hide in a graveyard. "He calls me by the lightning means the lightning will light the way for them. And finally, "The trumpet sounds within my soul" means the trumpet is sounding freedom.
Roll Jordan Roll is an example of the slaves claiming a Christian message to express their own needs and send their own messages. The song became a coded message for escape. The Jordan River represents the border between slavery and freedom, and so, "the other side of the Jordan" could suggest the Northern States and Canada, and therefore freedom. The River Jordan could also mean the border between this world and heaven. The idea of the Jordan 'rolling' suggests a coming of judgement on present injustice and perhaps even the arrival of Union soldiers. It possibly symbolized proverbial boarder from the
status of slavery to living free.
Rock-A-My Soul in the bosom of Abraham is seen as a place of safety and refuge.
The Gospel Train is a spiritual the slaves sang to alert other slaves that a group was preparing to escape. The Gospel Train was a code for the Underground Railroad. Plantation owners would be unaware their slaves were planning to escape as songs were part of the day's routine. A plantation owner would only hear the religious and Biblical references and assume the slaves were singing for spiritual reasons.
Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen describes the plight and hardships of the slaves.
Let Us Break Bread Together incorporates the idea of facing the rising sun. We can only speculate as to what the song means when it talks about falling on one's knees and facing the rising sun. Perhaps it's because slaves were often required to attend early church services so they could be back home preparing the principal midday Sunday meal while the white folks were at the later service. Therefore, they would often receive communion facing the rising sun.
Ezekiel Saw The Wheel is another spiritual that uses the word wheel. Any spiritual using the words wheel, chariot or travelling shoes meant someone was getting ready to run, meet with a conductor of the Underground Railroad and find his way to freedom.
"Jesus In The Morning"
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime; Jesus, Jesus, Jesus when the sun goes down!
Love Him, love Him.......
Serve Him, serve Him.....
Praise Him, praise Him
Good Morning everyone, and welcome. Our service this morning is going to be a little different. Since it's our last service before the summer break, we decided to have a service full of music, and what better way than singing spirituals on a Sunday morning.
You will notice in the bulletin that the "Call & Response" is Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Many slave owners encouraged their slaves to convert to Christianity, placing great emphasis on the subject of servanthood, often taught in the gospels and epistles. The slaves, however, found hope for freedom in the Bible, particularly in the stories of Moses and the stories of a better life to come.
The slaves began creating a type of song called the spiritual. These songs have a religious text but often use African song styles. The call & response song style was often used in African music and in African-American spirituals.
The call is usually sung by a soloist and tells a story. The response is usually sung by a group and is a response to whatever the soloist has sung.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is among the most widely recognized African-American spirituals. The song voices the slaves' hopes that ultimately they would find comfort in a heavenly home.
However, some historians believe that the song was one of the spirituals that conveyed a secret message to slaves. Slave spirituals did a lot more than offer a promise of eventual redemption. They also offered specific strategies, and even maps, needed to escape. It is reported that Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was one of Harriet Tubman's favourites. The heroic conductor on the Underground Railroad made her own escape to freedom in 1849. It is believed that the slaves sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot to announce that Tubman or another 'conductor' would be arriving soon to lead them to freedom.
This morning, the choir will sing the call and the congregation will sing the response, printed in bold in your bulletin.
CALL TO WORSHIP: "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
Well, now I looked over Jordan and what did I see Comin' for to carry me home
There was a band of angels a comin' after me Comin' for to carry me home.
Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home.
Well, l'm sometimes up and I'm sometimes down Comin' for to carry me home
But I know my soul is heavenly bound
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home.
Weil, now if you get there before I do Comin' for to carry me home
Tell all of my friends that I'm a comin' too Comin' for to carry me home.
Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home Well, now they're comin' for to carry me home.
HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN SPIRITUALS :
The slaves in America, as their ancestors in Africa had done for many centuries, used song or dance in almost all their daily activities — work, celebrations and religious ceremonies. The instruments that these early slaves used included real or make-shift drums, guitars and banjos. However, instruments being hard to come by, the music was usually a Capella.
The spiritual is a type of religious song developed by African —Americans. It is basically a group song, having a verse improvised by the leader and an answering chorus sung by a group. These spirituals were originally an oral tradition that taught Christian values while also describing the hardships of slavery.
The word spiritual is derived from ‘spiritual song’ and comes from Ephesians 5:19; "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything."
Slaves were forbidden from speaking their native language, and were generally converted to Christianity. While some slave owners believed that Christian slaves would be more docile, others came to feel the stories of Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage were counterproductive.
In some places enslaved Africans were permitted to hold their own prayer meetings. During these meetings, worshippers would sing, chant and dance. Along with spirituals, shouts also emerged with the shuffling of feet and clapping hands. They drew on native rhythms and their African heritage.
The lyrics of spirituals symbolize aspects of Biblical images such as Moses and Israel's exodus from Egypt. The slaves reshaped Christianity into a deeply personal way of dealing with the oppression of their enslavement. Their songs reflected their need to express their new faith.
Velma Thomas wrote: "My people told stories, from Genesis to Revelation, with God's faithful as the main characters. They knew about Adam and Eve in the Garden, about Moses and the Red Sea. They sang of the Hebrew children and Joshua at the battle of Jericho. They could tell you about Mary, Jesus, God and the Devil. If you stood around long enough, you'd hear a song about the blind man seeing, God troubling the water, Ezekiel seeing a wheel, Jesus being crucified and raised from the dead. If slaves couldn't read the Bible, they would memorize Biblical stories they heard and translate them into songs." The songs were also used to communicate with one another without the knowledge of the master. This was particularly the case when a slave was planning to escape bondage and to seek freedom via the Underground Railroad.
Simply put, spirituals address the need of a people to express their faith in a dynamic, musical way. Whether one wanted to "Steal Away to Jesus" or to "Climb Jacob's Ladder", a tormented soul sought and found relief in a risen Saviour.
STEWART BURROWS: "The Woman At The Well"
SPIRITUAL: To be fully alive includes trusting God's provision and guidance in one's life, and this is exactly what the Christian slaves did. Let's sing together "I'm Gonna Live So God Can Use Me" printed in your bulletin.
"I'm Gonna Live So"
I'm gonna live so God can use me, anywhere, Lord, anytime!
I'm gonna live so God can use me, anywhere, Lord, anytime!
I'm gonna work so God can use me............
I'm gonna pray so God can use me..............
I'm gonna sing so God can use me..............
ROCKBURN CHOIR: "Every Time I Feel The Spirit" is an African American spiritual dating back to before the U.S. Civil War. The words speak for themselves.
"Every Time I Feel The Spirit"
PRAYER: Our prayer this morning is a compilation of prayers said by African-American slaves and civil rights advocates, including Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X and Frederick Douglas. Lord, fix the situation, but even if you don't fix the situation, fix me. African-American slaves prayed fervently, absolutely persuaded that their prayers touched the heart and moved the hands of a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God,
Let us pray: Oh Lord, I ain't what I wanna be. Oh Lord, I ain't what I outta be. Oh Lord, ain't what I'm gonna be But thanks, Lord, for I ain't what I used to be.
Father, we call Thee Father because we love Thee. We are glad to be called your children, and to dedicate our lives to the service that extends through willing hearts and hands to the betterment of all mankind. Give us grace, 0 God, to dare to do the deed which we well know cries to be done. Let us not hesitate because of ease, or the words of men's mouths, or our own lives.
0 Lord, the hard-worn miles have worn my stumbling feet. Soothe me with Your smiles, and make my life complete. I thank You for such direct manifestation of Your goodness, majesty and power. Now, as all Christians have been taught to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
KEVIN HARVEY: "Steal Away To Jesus"
STORY OF THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD QUILT:
The Underground Railroad story is one of the most dramatic in the history of the United States and Canada. It's a story about how countless slaves made their way out of bondage, risking death for freedom. Between 1840 and 1860, before the American Civil war, enslaved Africans followed the North Star on the Underground Railroad to find freedom in Canada.
It wasn't an actual railroad but a network of routes and safe houses that helped people escape slavery and reach free states or Canada. The railroad actually began in the 1780's, but became known as The Underground Railroad in the 1830's. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the Railroad.
Runaways met up with a conductor who guided them on the arduous journey. Accounts are scarce because of the secrecy, but there are some oral accounts remaining today. One of these tells of quilts being made and set out on fences, leaving hidden messages for those trying to escape. The quilt on display this morning depicts 14 of the most frequently used patterns.
The message of the Underground Railroad quilt is printed on the back of your bulletin, but I'm going to give you more details about each square and its meaning.
The Monkey Wrench Quilt, a blacksmith's tool, was the first quilt displayed as a signal. It symbolized the time to collect the tools they would need on their journey north to freedom. The blacksmith, the most knowledgeable person on the plantation, was known as the "monkey wrench." He had strong, skillful hands and could talk to the slaves by the rhythmic hitting of the hammer on the anvil. He was often loaned out to other plantations, allowing him to gather information.
The Wagon Wheel was the second quilt to be displayed on the fence. Wagons with hidden compartments were one of the primary means of transporting escaping runaways. It was a message to pack provisions for their journey. The wagon was also symbolic of a chariot that was to carry them home, as in this morning's call to worship, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
The Carpenter's Wheel was a secondary code pattern. To a slave, the master carpenter in their lives was Jesus. As they worked in the fields, they sang about a chariot that was going to carry them home. Plantation owners thought they were singing about Jesus in Heaven, but the song held hidden messages.
The Bear's Paw Quilt was the third quilt used to help prepare the slaves. Runaways were told to follow the actual trail of a bear's footprints. Animal footprints would indicate the best path through the mountains, and would also lead them to food and water. Most escapes took place in the spring, and with spring rains, it would be easy to follow a bear's paw trail to food and safety.
The Basket Quilt is a symbol of the provisions needed for the long journey north. One of the most difficult things faced by escaping slaves was feeding themselves. They often depended on safe houses or friends along the way who would give them baskets of provisions.
The Crossroads Quilt was the fourth quilt with symbolic meaning. Once the runaways made it safely through the Appalachian Mountains, they were to travel to the crossroads, or a city where they would find protection and refuge.
The Log Cabin block is the fifth quilt in the secret code. it may have indicated that there was a specific log cabin that was a safe house. It also may have directed runaways to build a log cabin to weather out the winter.
The Shoo-Fly represents an actual person who might have helped escaping slaves. His responsibility was to secretly aid and harbour fugitives. Graveyards were often used as hiding places where the slaves possibly waited for a signal from a lantern.
The Bow Tie Quilt was the seventh quilt displayed on the fence. it was a directive for them to dress in a formal manner. Free slaves would often meet the runaways in a safe place, such as a church, and give them fresh clothing. In satin bow ties they wouldn't stand out. On the final leg of the journey, slaves could walk through town undetected to ships waiting to take them across the Great Lakes to Canada and to freedom.
The Flying Geese Quilt is the eighth quilt. Slaves learned they were to take their direction, timing and behaviour from migrating geese. Since geese fly north in the spring it was the best time for slaves to escape. This quilt acted as acompass, transforming the quilt into a map.
The Bird In The Air quilt is symbolic of flight or migration. A clever quilter could indicate a direction for fugitives to travel. By making some blocks lighter in an area, this created an arrow pointing north.
The Drunkard's Path Quilt is the ninth pattern of the secret code. Slaves were to move in a staggering pattern to allude any following slave hunters. They even double backed occasionally to confuse the slave catchers who were chasing them.
The Sail Boat block is a symbol of safe passage to freedom. It also represents the importance of free black sailors to the Underground Railroad. Black sailors and ship owners helped many slaves escape.
The North Star Quilt is the tenth quilt in the secret code. The North Star was the guiding light leading slaves to Canada and freedom.
Perhaps no song is more connected to the Underground Railroad than "Follow The Drinking Gourd."
Our sincere thanks to Linda Rennie for allowing us to display her quilt today. Thank you, Linda
"The Buses Are Coming Oh Yes"
"Oh Freedom, Before I'd Be A Slave"
OFFERING: The slaves prayed for freedom, hoping that freedom would come during their earthly lifetime, and surely in the life hereafter. The words of "There Is A Balm in Gilead" tell of hope mingled with despair, with faith in the midst of great trial, and strength to rise up against all odds. The choir will sing this old favourite while the offering is received.
"There Is A Balm In Gilead" Rockburn Choir
Moses must have felt small and powerless in the face of God's instructions to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt. Yet God moved Moses to courage and great things because Moses trusted God with his life. When we share what we have and trust God with our fives, great things will happen. Let us gather our gifts together and offer them to God in gratitude and praise. We will now receive the offering.
0 God, because we have been given so much love, help us to give more. Because we are loved so much, give us the strength to love more. Because we are accepted as we are, give us the grace to accept others without judgement or prejudice. We give ourselves and our gifts with grateful hearts. Amen.
ELISABETH CHURCHILL: "Wade In The Water"
SPIRITUAL: "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" is a traditional spiritual first published in 1927. The slaves knew that God held their destiny in His hands. Join together for our final spiritual, He's Got The Whole World in His Hands.
"He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" He's got the whole world in His hands (4x)
He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands, (3x) He's got the whole world in His hands.
He's got the sun and the rain in His hands,
He's got the moon and the stars in His hands, He's got the wind and the clouds in His hands, He's got the whole world in His hands.
He's got the river and the mountains in His hands,
He's got the oceans and the seas in His hands, He's got you and He's got me in His hands, He's got the whole world in His hands.
He's got everybody here in His hands (3x) He's got the whole world in His hands.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: (Norm Rennie, Elisabeth Churchill & Rob Ireland)
Almighty Father, help us remember that freedom does not automatically perpetuate itself, that we have to work at it, nurture it, protect it and pray for it. Freedom, like faith, needs our attention and our cooperation. Be with us all and provide us with mercy as we return to our homes and part for our summer break. May the way of God direct us and may the love of God go with us this day and forever.
PROCESSIONAL: Bagpiper: Robert Waller
Canada Day Celebration
Sing: “God Save our Queen”
CALL TO WORSHIP
L - Gathered by the Spirit
P - God’s Church took shape at Pentecost.
L - Inspired by the breath of the Infinite,
P - God’s people have followed the Way of Jesus.
L - Nurtured by the word of the Holy One,
P - God’s children grow to fullness.
L - Inflame us, O pure fire of love,
P - Make our hearts burn with joyful love for you
and your creation. We pray in Christ.
L – Let us worship God as we join together in prayer.
ROCESSIONAL: Bagpiper: Robert Waller
Canada Day Celebration
Sing: “God Save our Queen” # 834
“O Canada” # 833
SERMON: STRICTLY BALLROOM
I stumbled across an interesting Australian movie, it’s not one of those mainstream flicks likely to be shown in a modern multiplex theatre but rather you would see it in some artsy theatre somewhere in old Montreal or on UTUBE The film is called “Strictly Ballroom.” It’s a Pentecost movie, though I don’t imagine that ever occurred to the folks who made it.
It is set in the competitive culture of BALLROOM DANCING, a world in which dancers struggle to become perfect at certain pre-determined steps and movements, In the film, the ultimate goal is to win the coveted Pan-Pacific Cup, the grand champion prize for Australian ballroom dancers.
The lead actor is a young dancer named SCOTT, whose parents maintain a rundown ballroom dance school. His mother is a former would be contender for this Pan-Pacific Cup who never quite made it.
Now she has projected all her aspirations on poor Scott to win the coveted cup. Scott is a brilliant dancer and since he was six she has had him focus on nothing less.
But over the years, the stiff stilted routines, all of it bores him. Scott aches for more. And he couldn’t care less about the cup his mother wants for him with every ounce of her being.
Scott meets a young dance student, named FRAN and there is something about her Scott can’t resist. She takes him home one day to meet her immigrant family, Portuguese I’d guess.
Imagine the scene, middle aged women with no makeup, hair in buns, frumpy black peasant dresses, the men with their sleeves rolled up drinking red wine out in the back yard. Scott’s a dancer, they learn, so they say, “dance with Fran, dance a dance we know.”
To a rhythmic guitar, Frans and Scott offers the perfect steps to a Portuguese dance they have been practicing for just such an occasion. As they dance – so precisely- the women in their black dresses and the men drinking red wine all start to laugh. The couple stops, the guitar goes silent, what’s wrong?” Scott shouts indignantly.
Without an answer, the guitar rhyme begins Fran’s father gets up from his chair and dances the same dance with his daughter, at least most of the steps are the same, but it’s not really the same dance. As you watch this aging laborer dance you can immediately see the difference.
Scott had all the right steps-- all the prescribed movements. But they was no soul, there was little spirit in the dancing. The difference between perfect dancing without spirit and dancing with spirit is portrayed wordlessly.
Everyone sees it, especially Scott.
The film then unfolds you guessed it, on the ballroom floor of the Pan-Pacific Cup. Scott’s mother has paired him up to dance with another potential champion, the two have always disliked each other from the getgo.
But in the dramatic final scene, Scott chooses to dance with Fran. As they begin to dance, they do exactly what everyone was afraid there were going to do. They dance the great old dance, but horrors of horrors,
They break the rules,
They include new steps!
The dance hall establishment watches aghast, mouths drooped open. The president of the Australian ballroom dancing association finally does what he must: he pulls the plug. He literally stops the music so this shocking departure from the way it’s always been done can be stopped.
But he’s too late. Everyone has seen it, they’re transfixed by the dancing so fresh, dancing transformed by the love between the dancers, dancing full of Spirit. And the audience begins to clap in rhythm so that Scott and Fran can dance on.
Which they do and ballroom dancing in Australia is never the same again.
What a metaphor for the church! Just like Australian ballroom dancing, over time every church develops certain set steps, a framework of prescribed movements, what we call “the way we do things.” And we get very good at the “way-- we do things.”
Churches invariably develop certain time honoured movements that become familiar and beloved parts of our life together, sweet and comfortable “the way we do things.” We are very good at the same old steps and wonderfully adept at the familiar movements..
But the danger is this. It can all become as stiff and spirit-less as the Australian ballroom dancing.
During the first Pentecost, this motley crew of Galilean fishermen and an unruly tax collector dance out into the world with the story of the Living God. The world watches in stunned silence. Some, many thousands, in time millions, clap in rhythm.
Oh, some try to pull the plug, but the dance goes on and the world is never the same again. When the Holy Spirit breaks in, those are exactly the two reactions that rise in us. Maybe both at the same time, part of us wants to clap along with something so fresh. Part of us wants to pull the plug before it’s too late.
That was exactly WHAT I EXPERIENCED when I was moved to enroll in the Worship Leader Course. Part of me was anxious and excited about proclaiming God’s message, while another part of me wanted to pull the plug on the very idea. Was I up to this at my age, all those interviews, of being evaluated, who would want to hear what I had to say?—did I have enough faith? I was quite content with my life just the way it was..
Some folk just want to lock God up and keep God out of the present where God can be a downright dangerous threat to our way of doing things. We formalize and regulate, and in the end, if we don’t watch out, we create “strictly ballroom” religion. Who wants anything as unpredictable and unregulated as the Spirit.
But our challenge, just like the challenge facing Scott and Fran at the Pan-Pacific ballroom dance competition, is to dance our great old dance with Spirit, to dance ballroom church fresh, to dance with life and passion. Scott and Fran didn’t stun them with some new and outlandish dance. No, they “wowed them” with a good old ballroom dance, but done with Spirit and a few new steps.
And that is the challenge always before all churches including the churches in the valley. It’s the challenge before our sessions, Boards of Managements, trustees and all the members---- to dance the old steps in a way that is fresh and spirited --- Oh I know, some will clap and others will want to pull the plug.
On this Pentecost period in our church calender do we dare to pray CUM-BA-YAH-my Lord, praying that God will break us out of the confines of the past and make us alive in the this very moment.
And should God answer our Pentecost prayer sometimes we will clap along and sometimes we will want to pull the plug before it’s too late!
Rev. Michael Lindvall, pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church has been valuable in shaping this message.
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