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Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3777

  Theological Treasure

As we know, important aspects of our Christian theology seem to be slipping away! Their absence leaves people with a deep thirst that can never be satisfied. And so the discovery of the missing theological treasure is much like finding a welcome spring in the desert.

This morning I found some welcome “theological” springs, actually, during my search for suitable choral anthems. I found it in the lyrics of Negro spirituals. The words are a stark contrast to the lyrics we have become accustomed to. Instead of centering on hope in this life, including our good intentions, they portray a theology of hope in Christ’s “better” home. The lyrics remind me of Abraham, who looked far into the future even beyond the temporary “Promised Land” – to his eternal home. (see Heb. 11:10)

Countless wars and disputes have been perpetrated by two deep unmet longings: A home and an identity. These are God-given needs that leave an unquenchable thirst until met by God through Christ - who offers a new identity and a place of rest (an eternal home).

Like me, you may enjoy some of the spirituals [url=]HERE [/url]: A few of the songs have audio samples, ex:

Deep River
Give me Jesus
Just Across that River
Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning
Let me Fly
Poor Mourners Got a Home at Last
Ride Up in the Chariot
Songs of the Wayfarer
Time for Praying

May the Lord bless you through the music, as you fellowship in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, even those who are now "home", who through suffering learned to look ahead to the “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”


EDIT:Maybe someone can find some more audios of spiriutals on other sites - and include them here. I wouldn't mind hearing them.


 2008/4/16 10:07Profile

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7486

 Re: Theological Treasure


You are bringing up a very interesting subject: Negro Spirituals! I love them. Many years ago we listened to a Negro choir sing traditional Christian songs and I tell you they sang it totally different then we white folks do, adding slurs and what have you. It was very musical.

Anyhow here is a list of a few I love:

In Dat Great Gittin'-Up Morning
Jacob's Ladder
Joshua Fit d' Battle of Jericho
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Chil'
There is a Balm in Gilead
Ain't Got Time to Die
I Got Shoes
All Day, All Night
Hold Out Yo' Light!

We sang most of these songs acapella when I went to Bible School with all four parts (soprano, alto, tenor & bass) participating...they were so beautiful. The theology was so simple, reflecting simple faith and perhaps some ignorance on the details, like the "Creation". Anyhow, thinking about this is going to make me yearn for more recordings of these songs.

Diane, I do not know where one can find audios of these spirituals, I just shared the titles of some I personally enjoy.


Sandra Miller

 2008/4/18 18:56Profile

Joined: 2008/2/22
Posts: 173
Sylacauga Alabama

 Re: Theological Treasure

sorry I couldn't give you the music. Don't know how, but would like to bless you with the words okay? God of Abraham I set my face like a flint before your throne God of Abraham you are my strength and my eternal joy. I set my love upon you my faith is in you only, for your word is forever settled in heaven and your word is forever settled in my heart. maybe you can sort of sing it in a special way for it truly is a special song. God bless.


 2008/4/22 16:30Profile

Joined: 2007/1/21
Posts: 797


Never mind, the link I posted for a video has a bad ad on it all of a sudden.


 2008/4/22 18:23Profile

Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3777

 Re: Exploring theological treasure

Ginnyrose, Thank you for your list! There is a vast treasure of AfricoAmerican spirituals that I believe should be remembered in our modern church liturgy. The songs link real historical human experience with real and vibrant hope. In my situation they provide a welcome relief from the old Presbyterian hymns that are full-orbed theological dissertations– songs that require acute eyesight, a quick mind, and strong “teeth” for heavy chewing – in the space of four minutes.

We sang most of these songs acapella when I went to Bible School with all four parts …they were so beautiful.

Ginnyrose, I remember those days when many were blessed by the touring choral groups from our Bible Colleges. (That dates us!)
Here is an acapella rendition of: [url=]Hold Our Your Light[/url]

Negro spirituals often had a double meaning, as is seen in an article of this song:

…I'm goin' to shout all ovah God's Heab'n
…I'm goin' to play all ovah God's Heab'n
…I'm goin' to fly all ovah God's Heab'n
…I'm gonna walk all over God's Heaven

…. it is very clear that some of the songs created by enslaved people served as expressions of protest. Creators of the songs went to considerable lengths to disguise the true meaning of the lyrics. For those within the enslaved community, however, the meanings were very clear. The best example of a protest spiritual is the song commonly called “I Got Shoes,” but also known as “Heav'n, Heav'n.” When it is performed in concert settings, the lyrics10 of this song are rarely understood fully. In its original context, the song is a bold protest against slavery. Basic necessities like shoes were rare in the slave quarters. However, the creators and original singers of this song, boldly confident about ultimate justice, insisted that “all God's children got shoes” (and robes, and harps, and crowns, and any number of items that might even be considered to be luxurious!). However, the song lyrics go even further than this. The lyricist continues, exclaiming that “everybody talkin' ‘bout Heav'n ain't goin' there.” Here, the emphasis is on hypocrisy. The slave master, claiming to be Christian, goes to church every Sunday morning, where he and other congregants talk and sing about Jesus and Heaven. But when he returns to the plantation on Sunday afternoon, he presides over a decidedly un-Heavenly, immoral enterprise, slavery, and participates actively in the un-Heavenly and immoral physical, emotional (and frequently sexual) abuse of other human beings.

Through the veiled lyrics of the song, the creator of this spiritual (whose name has long been forgotten) is expressing -- on behalf of the whole community -- a sense of outrage at the hypocritical behavior of men who have no God-given right to be in the position they occupy. And through the simple yet almost regal musical appeal of the song's melody, the singer turns the tables on the oppressor, reversing the power hierarchy. God's children (so-called slaves) have a place in Heaven, while the oppressor “ain't goin' there.” Moreover, Heaven might not necessarily be life after death. It might simply be life away from the plantation, away from slavery, in the safety of a place in the North, or in Canada! [url=]source[/url]

God of Abraham I set my face like a flint before your throne God of Abraham you are my strength and my eternal joy. I set my love upon you my faith is in you only, for your word is forever settled in heaven and your word is forever settled in my heart

Brodav9 I have enjoyed meditating on these wonderful expression of faith in a hope beyond this earthly existence. Thank you.




 2008/4/24 9:15Profile

Joined: 2006/8/1
Posts: 370
West Monroe, LA


Thanks so much Diane for this thread.

I too, Ginny, sang many of these songs in a secular school, believe it or not, at our local university a few :-) years ago and in fact we sang them all over the state including at what was then some of our predominately black colleges.

Our church choir has sung some of these wonderful songs of hope with their eternal perspective through the years. One that I did not see mentioned was "My Lord what a Mournin'".

Amazing also in these songs (minus our tampering with them) is the frugality of notes with which most of these melodies are composed. Amazing, like "Amazing Grace" what can be done with just five tones!


Clint Thornton

 2008/4/24 9:33Profile

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7486



Still thinking about this subject...

Are you familiar with "Creation"? I have heard it presented several times and am not sure whether it was always the same. But no matter...seems to me you as a musician would find it a fascinating piece to master and present to crowds.

"Creation" utilizes a narrator - preferably a male with a loud, booming voice - who describes a persons' concept of God's creation. While he is telling the 'creation' story you will have a group sing, hum in the background. The only recording I am aware of is done by the "Rosedale Chorale" (from Rosedale College, formally Rosedale Bible Institute) and I am not sure whether it would still be available - it was a long time ago when they did it.

In any case, it is a beautiful piece....but you must remember it is written from the perspective of a person with a lot of faith, imagination, love for God who is a tad bit ignorant of a few details.

This past summer my brother-in-law presented this piece at a family reunion and upon our request gave it at our church. He did the narrating while his wife and two daughters played violins. It was beautiful and the people loved it!


Sandra Miller

 2008/4/26 2:36Profile

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7486



Still thinking...

Are you familiar with Rosedale Chorale from Rosedale College? Years ago when Lloyd Kauffman was their director he had the chorale sing a lot of spirituals. Each recording they made back then included several of them. So if you could get a copy of them, I am sure you would be blessed - if you enjoy acappella music, that is.


Sandra Miller

 2008/4/26 2:44Profile

Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3777

 Re: The "Creation" featuring the Creator

Are you familiar with "Creation"?

I was rehearsal pianist for Haydn’s Creation – performed in May, 2000. While that has nothing to do with the “Creation” you refer to, Ginnyrose - it does bring back some memories I just gotta share. (pardon the momentary diversion)

At the end of the performance a group of youth jumped to their feet in enthusiastic applause. Afterwards one youth told me, “ Tonight is our regular youth night, and we had to come to the concert. I was not thrilled about coming. I’m glad I did! I have never heard such amazing music! I never knew it existed! Wow! Awesome! (… and many more “Wows!”)

The prelude of this performance featured a super-charged dispute between the conductor and the church pastor – leading to a near cancellation. However, it went ahead, and the Lord broke the static with some static of his own. That night, during the concert, we were “entertained” by a fearsome exhibit of thunder, and lightening, and huge downpour – complete with flickering lights. (The power didn’t go off until after it was done)

It was neat to have the Creator display his own presence – especially since the director (is) not a fan of God or church. (though he likes the buildings for his performances).

Clint and Ginnyrose – it looks like you both have a lot to offer me, by way of direction for my church choir. I will respond more later – but first I wish to learn more about the “Creation” Ginnyrose refers to - and your other comments...

PS this director is about to pop in for some rehearsaling. Still praying for him........ Your prayers would be appreciated... (there has been some softening)

Will be back Monday........



 2008/4/26 8:25Profile

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7486

 Re: "Creation" poem


Since I read your post, I have been searching the web for the spiritual "Creation". I have found a site with 200 of them but not "Creation". I was stumped! I first heard this perhaps 35 years ago, then I heard it on a tape made by the Rosedale Chorale, directed by Lloyd Kauffman. Then I got to thinking that it may very well be a poem that these guys just added music to, improvised. Anyhow, so this morning I googled "Creation" poem and I came up with the words and here they are:

The Creation

And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'm lonely--
I'll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That's good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That's good!

Then God himself stepped down--
And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas--
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed--
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled--
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That's good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I'm lonely still.

Then God sat down--
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I'll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.

James Weldon Johnson

This poem is 'narrated' by a male with a loud, booming voice, being very dramatic in his expression, feeling. You need one who is super good. Then while he is speaking have the choir hum and as the narrator progresses have them sing "Amen! that's Good!" At first it is sung softly and as the creator progresses on, gets excited about what God has done the singing gets louder, very expressive. You just might have to improvise just like I now suspect that my BIL did as well as Lloyd Kauffman. The singing is done acapella (four part harmony) with the males at times leading some of it but ending with four-part harmony.

And Diane, if you were to come anywheres near close to what these fellows did with this poem, those Presbyterians might for sure have an heart attack! LOL

Diane, do you very often sing acapella? with four-part harmony? This is a skill that is fast dying out. It requires nourishment in order for it to thrive. The use of musical instruments in worship has facilitated this loss. Anyhow, I love four-part harmony - the human voice is the most beautiful musical instrument there is. Blend the many different voices together in harmony...ah, lady it is like a touch of heaven!

Now you have something else to think about! :-)
If I keep thinking I may come back with more ideas! You see, I love choral music done acapella. Come to think about it I do have more to share but have to run now...


PS: Electrical storms as displayed by lightening, thunder, torrents of rain - I enjoy! Just don't want anybody to get hurt. But that drama of nature is so inspiring, man is utterly helpless to do anything about it ... maybe that is why I like them? We rarely see these storms...

Sandra Miller

 2008/4/29 9:04Profile

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