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Global Song: Making Black History Month a Musical Celebration

As you consider ways to celebrate Black History Month in your worship services, explore the rich diversity of hymnody and song that has been born out of the African American experience. The collection, Beams of Heaven , containing 46 hymns of Charles Tindley, is a treasure for you to share with your congregation as a part of Black History Month. You may want to share with your congregation the life story of Charles Tindley in your newsletter or worship bulletins. James Abbington, D.M.A., has written an excellent introduction to the collection Beams of Heaven that can be used as a reference to create the article for your publications. Churches who want to offer solos or duets as part of their celebration of Black History Month may want to consider some of the spirituals found in Steal Away to Jesus.

Companion CDs are available for both collections. Global Praise resources, including these collections, are available from the Cokesbury Music Service (toll-free 1-877-877-8674), Cokesbury (toll-free 1-800-672-1789), or your local music dealer.

Beams of Heaven
These suggestions from the Global Praise resource, Beams of Heaven, incorporate the Revised Common Lectionary for the month of February 2008. The list continues through March 16, 2008, to serve as a guide throughout the season of Lent.

February 3, 2008: Transfiguration Sunday
Matthew 17:1-9
Consider using Charles Tindley's hymn "Christ Is the Way" (Beams of Heaven, #16) as a theme song this Lent. The text of stanza 1 will certainly enhance worship on Transfiguration Sunday. Consider singing the refrain as a response to the reading of the Gospel lesson each week in Lent.

February 10, 2008: First Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4:1-11
Continue teaching your congregation the hymn "Christ Is the Way" (Beams of Heaven, #16) as they sing stanza 2. This stanza closely matches the gospel lesson today. Another hymn from this collection, "Ye Pilgrims Through This Vale of Tears" (#1), reminds us "our way is dark and hard, temptations all around us." Consider using this hymn as a response to the word proclaimed or as a hymn of dedication.

February 17, 2008: Second Sunday in Lent
John 3:1-17
"If Your Life In Days Gone By," #30 from Beams of Heaven, has a wonderful phrase that appears at the end of each stanza and the refrain. On the Sunday we hear the well known scripture John 3:16-17, we can sing that with faith that "he will fix it for you." Use the refrain as a response to your time of prayer.

February 24, 2008: Third Sunday in Lent
John 4:5-42
Tindley's texts are filled with powerful images of the many ways a life can be changed when it is filled with faith. He personalizes the images in ways that are still applicable today. Consider singing, #2 "Go, Ye Humble Pilgrim Stranger" which begins imploring us to remember that God is with us no matter what our current lot in life and moves to our responsibility to tell strangers and others we meet about Jesus.

March 2, 2008: Fourth Sunday in Lent
John 9:1-41
Number 22, "Come, Whosoever Feels the Need," contains the image of faith making us whole again. This day we hear the story of the healing of the blind man. This would also be a wonderful addition to a healing service.

March 9, 2008: Fifth Sunday in Lent
John 11:1-45
"No funeral train we there shall meet, for death is there cast out" is the refrain of stanza 3 of #23, "I'm On My Way." While the scripture begins with the telling of Lazarus' sickness and death, the lesson concludes with the resurrection of Lazarus. The repetitions in the text, as well as the very singable melody line, makes this an easy-to-learn hymn as response to the scripture.

Another option is #7 "You Ask Me Where I Get the Joys." For churches that sing "Hallelujah" during Lent, this song is a joyful expression of faith that Christ has saved the singer and the night has passed away.

March 16, 2008: Palm Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11 (Palms Liturgy) & Matthew 26:14-27:66 (Passion)
Stanzas 3, 4, and 5 of Tindley's hymn "Christ Is the Way" help to tell the story of Passion/Palm Sunday (Beams of Heaven, #16.) If you began the season of Lent with stanzas 1 and 2 of this hymn, you may want to consider singing the entire hymn on this day.

Steal Away to Jesus
There are several solos in the collection Steal Away to Jesus that would be appropriate for the Lenten season and your celebration of Black History Month. The companion CD also includes instrumental tracks for those who desire pre-recorded accompaniment for practice and/or leadership in worship.

Consider these solos or duets from Steal Away to Jesus for your services during Black History Month and Lent:

"Way to Canaan" (solo for medium voice)
While the score is set for voice and piano, churches with praise teams my want to listen to the recording to hear one possible way to accompany this spiritual with a band/praise team.

"What Wondrous Love Is This" (solo for medium voice)
Employing interesting harmonies, the beauty of this song shines through in this arrangement. An arrangement for SSATBB a cappella choir with baritone or .mezzo-soprano solo is also available from GBGMusik resources through Cokesbury (#CS1004.)

"Lord, I Want to be a Christian" (solo for medium voice)
A beautiful solo on Ash Wednesday or any Sunday in Lent, use this as a response or call to prayer. If liturgical dancers are a part of your church ministry, ask the dance team to interpret the song.

"Saw Ye My Savior" (duet for sop./bar. or bass)
This arrangement can be sung with the piano accompaniment printed or consider arranging the accompaniment for a small acoustic ensemble of guitar, keyboard, and hand drum as performed on the CD. The use of the instruments creates a more contemporary sound often used in emerging or contemporary services. Use during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday. Consider singing stanzas 1-4 interspersed with the crucifixion scripture on Good Friday and stanza 5 as the opening to your Easter worship. Churches with projection capabilities may want to explore the visual images available that will help tell the story of the crucifixion on Good Friday and the resurrection on Easter

"I Am a Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow" (solo for high voice)
Matching a text of Charles Tindley to a traditional spiritual tune, the beauty of the text shines through this solo. Soloists will want to spend time prior to singing this in worship. This will allow them to comfortably meet the challenge of singing the legato phrases with musicality.

Rev. Debra Tyree serves as Business Manager for Global Praise Program at Global Ministries. She has served in music ministry in local churches for over 30 years and currently serves Bellevue UMC in Nashville, TN, as Minister of Music. Debi is nationally recognized as a clinician and leader in the areas of worship and church music.

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