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Worship, central to African-American religious life

 


Worship central to African-American religious life

March 24, 2005       

By Linda Green*

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (UMNS)--Worship is an integral part of a growing and vibrant church and is central to the African-American experience, as was evident throughout a four-day meeting of the United Methodist Church’s black caucus.

Nearly 500 African-American United Methodists came together March 16-19 in this coastal city to focus on building effective worship to enrich the membership of local churches and communities and make churches grow. 

Reinforced throughout the meeting was the message that worship is a tribute to God and is singularly directed toward God, who is the subject of worship. Another view expressed was that worship is the “essence of what has fueled our (African-American United Methodists) being.” 

In worship, identity is shaped and formed, humanity is affirmed and faith is honed, according to the meeting leaders.

“Worship is vital in our church,” said the Rev. Vincent Harris, chairperson of Black Methodist for Church Renewal, Inc. “In its initial context, vital worship has tremendous benefits in that it leads people into a relationship with Christ.”  

Worship, many attendees said, provides the strength and power needed to move beyond the sanctuary to respond to God’s call to ministry.

One of the responsibilities of the 38-year old Black Methodists for Church Renewal organization is to implement strategies for growing strong black churches and provide an instrument through which the black constituency of the United Methodist Church might be educated and cultivated for greater awareness and sensitivity to the overall needs of black United Methodists.  

In the annual sessions, caucus leadership strives to provide effective and relevant emphases that provide spiritual relevance to the needs of the members and to the church as a whole.

Throughout the 2005 session, keynote speakers, workshop leaders and hallway conversations focused on worship -- worship styles, worship leaders and worship accompaniments. The theme “If We Build It, They Will Come; Building Effective Worship” proclaimed BMCR’s task of “helping black churches build effective, magnetic, soul-stirring and deliverance worship,” Harris said.  

“If black churches build life-changing worship services, people will come. People who are authentic in worship will draw others and will give off an understanding of God’s power,” he added.  “Spiritual disciplines come out of our experience with worship.”

One workshop, led by Lamont Hogans, a staff member of New Life Community Church, a United Methodist congregation in Jacksonville, Fla., focused on integrating technology into worship. 

“When people walk through the church’s front door, they want interaction. They do not want dead time,” said Hogans, New Life’s minister of music. He described the various technological devices used at his church to “get people online with the upcoming service.” 

Technology, he explained, encompasses a large area and can be simplistic or multi-advanced. Whatever technology is used has to be “managed and made to work for you as it gets people attention and gets them involved." It is particularly effective as a way to reach youth, he pointed out.

Through such devices as Power Point presentations, video imagery or sensory production, technology provides a tool to get the message across in church. “The use of technology does not save,” Hogans said. “The word saves. Technology just gets people’s attention.”

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or
newsdesk@umcom.org.

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