Today Sunday we had the extraordinary good fortune to be part (again- last time in 2017) of the Gospel Service at the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem:
Personally I found this service incredibly powerful and moving, but I can also understand why some people might find it confronting and challenging. To this end I have posed this question for our class response:
I am looking forward to hearing and recording your responses at the tutorial in the morning!
Here now is Eric’s introduction recorded this morning on MalcolmX /Lennox Ave Blvd. in the freezing rain:
For the record, here is what I just wrote back home about today’s experience:
It was an inspiring morning at the Canaan Baptist Church Gospel Service. There was a profound sense of serious worship there accompanied by strong singing and dancing. It is the anniversary today of Martin Luther King and this gave poignancy and strength to all that was preached. The event brought tears to my eyes… There is no doubt in my mind that New York is an amazing place because of its history and staggering creative human responses to that history- one response of which is this Gospel service with its deep roots in African spirituality, married with a profound understanding of the meaning of the Gospel story. I have just heard that there were 67 million visitors to New York last year- and it is not hard to see the reason why…. at the same time I do know why I love the stillness of the Australian Bush and all that it has to offer as the total opposite of what can be found in New York!
Martin Luther King was born on January 15th, 1929 and was assassinated on April 4th 1968.
His final words were to ask for a beautiful song to be played the evening of his death:
“Ben, make sure you play ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’. Play it real pretty”, are said to be the last words of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, just before he stepped out onto a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee where a gunman shot him a single time, ending his life half a century ago.
That gunshot over 50 years ago put an end to the life of a man who is one of the most revered figures in American history — not to mention one of the most quotable individuals with a persistent relevance to the condition of the country and its people. On Monday, the nation will celebrate his life and his birthday for Martin Luther King Jr Day, which occurs each year on the third Monday of January even though his actual birthday was on the 15th.
Before King made that plea for the sounds of beauty to Ben Branch, a musician scheduled to play at a planned event that evening in Memphis, he was known for using his words to inspire a generation to peaceful action in the fight for civil rights.
Here is the late reverend, in his own words.
- “I have decided to stick with love. hate is too great a burden to bear”
- “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last.”
- “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”