As a way to continue the conversations in The Biola Hour, we've invited Becky Mitchell to blog her thoughts after each episode. This is a response to Episode 54 on gospel music and worship leading. Feel free to interact with Becky's thoughts in the comments below.
The songs sing of truthful experiences. The songs sing of the good news, as Lena Byrd-Miles shared. The songs sung of slaves’ codes to freedom. When I hear the hearts of African Americans singing it is too often in suffering yet proclaiming joy.
When I first walked onto Biola’s campus I had no understanding of gospel music. After four years of attending the available chapels with the gospel choir and writing a story on Gospel Fest, I finally attended. Each person’s soul rejoiced in the Lord like I had never seen before. Each song spoke of God’s faithfulness. I heard notes of praise that broke down my walls. I left encouraged by the black church that is more than a performance but are fellow sisters and brothers.
Byrd-Miles was right, gospel music is a rich tradition that the white church is missing out on. Yes, gospel music is expressive in dancing and not the same tunes as Hillsong or Chris Tomlin. It challenges me to stand in the uncomfortability of dancing and responsive, community worship. But as a white person I get to choose to enter into worship this way.
The songs are not proclaiming victory for only one race, just as Jesus welcomes all with the good news. The songs can be an encouragement to those needing hope in the hospital, as Byrd-Miles said. With voices heard and healing brought, I have a long way to go in learning about gospel music and the breadth of experiences in blackness. May we learn from one another, from all cultures to form the songs of heaven that glorify God.