A few weeks ago I blogged about my church, Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene, and Fairview Missionary Baptist Church, marching together in Oklahoma City's Martin Luther King Day celebration and parade.
This past weekend, our congregations celebrated worship together at Fairview Baptist. The JR Inspirational Singers (named for Fairview's 45 year pastor, Dr. John Reed) performed, as well as the choir and musicians from OKC First Nazarene. Our pastor, John Middendorf (an old college mate of mine; we're the same age) preached for the crowd. And as usual, Fairview prepared a mighty spread of food for everyone afterwards.
The more that I learn about the black gospel tradition, the more I am struck by the contrast between the black gospel churches in the south, and their fundamentalist evangelical counterparts. Both groups were separated from "mainline" Northern Christianity and its European roots (Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Methodist, UCC, Disciples of Christ, etc.) Both groups emphasized deliverance through the blood of Christ, yet one group's theology centered around God's vengeance and wrath, while the other centered around the idea of a God who makes His presence known through deliverance and justice. The black gospel church in the south led the fight for justice and civil rights, while the white fundamentalist churches largely remained silent or expressed their disapproval by hiding under the banner of law and order.
It's not particularly accurate or fair to illustrate this theological contrast through the music presented at last night's worship service. My church (OKC First Nazarene) is not fundamentalist -- we have actually lost members who claimed that our church was becoming "too Democratic" (as opposed to staunchly defending Republican politics). But although we have the reverence and adoration part down pretty well, it can be said that our tradition is still trying to find its joy. And there is certainly no lack of joy in the music of Fairview Baptist.
Here are the JR Inspirational Singers performing "He's An On Time God"
Here is the OKC First Music (yours truly on drums) performing "Sing To Jesus"