A hymn is the driving force behind me wanting to go back ‘home’. Home being, church. The black church. The BAPTIST church at that.
I listen to Candice Benbow’s Divine Dialogue radio show that airs every Thursday on blogtalk radio. Her show is an awesome dialogue of faith, politics and other issues in the black community. Anyways, she has ended each and every episode with a hymn. The most recent episode featured this song, Near The Cross by Mississippi Mass Choir.
All the memories came rushing back. I was just in a euphoric moment of humility and nostalgia. Reminding me of trips down south, my daddy driving late at night while my sisters and I slept in the backseat of the car. I’d often wake up to find my daddy listening to his Mississippi Mass Choir cassette tapes.
My father, a non denominational pastor, grew up in a black baptist church in Mississippi. To this day, the majority of his family still attends baptist churches.
Anyways, he was still particularly fond of Mississippi Mass Choir, while my mother preferred more modern/contemporary gospel music. As a result, we heard a lot of the older gospel music frequently riding in the car with my dad. I loved Goin up Yonder (Walter Hawkins) but beyond that? I preferred the 90s gospel.
At any rate, I’ve been on ‘hiatus’ from church since I’ve been married. Marriage actually had very little to do with my dissatisfaction with church in general, I just needed a break. Needed to discover and find God for myself. And no, I couldn’t do it in church not when they were too busy trying to box God in.
So I left. Decided I’d be back eventually. I took a hiatus from gospel music but hymns and older gospel music always seem to be the exception.
The older I get, the more I prefer my original baptist roots and its’ traditions. All I knew growing up was my small, non-denominational church. Not knocking it, but it seems that so much of our heritage, our tradition was lost when we left our former denomination. Not that I longed for that particular denomination, but I wanted something solid to pass down to my future kids. Theologically? I’m at odds with the baptist church in general, but the hymns of the black church as a whole? Those are what I want to pass down.
Hymns, no matter what I’m doing, make me stop in my tracks, and appreciate the moment. Make me solemnly bow my head to a God much greater than anything I’m in. Hymns, in their most traditional form, come from a honest, genuine place of my ancestors, and remind me that I’m forever connected and indebted to them, even as I move forward.
In looking back and appreciating the hymns, they are continually helping me to find my way back home. I may even find myself sitting in someone’s sanctuary relatively soon, who knows.
I just know that hymns, remind me that every sinner with a past, has a future. That we’re never too new fangled, fancy, and too good for an old fashioned good foot stomping, hand clapping beat. These hymns are part of our heritage, our roots, reminding us to never forget how far God has brought us.
These hymns, are making me long for ‘home’.