In these days of multimedia presentations, sound bites, and constant sensory bombardment, we sometimes find ourselves feeling depleted and at a loss for words. We writers can feel empty and unfocused and in desperate need of something, anything, to spark our creativity and inspire us to return to the page. Yesterday I found a wonderful way to fill my empty creative well and it didn’t cost a penny or require a single scrap of technology! I attended a Black Heritage Worship Service at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and it was just what I needed. I left refreshed and rejuvenated with a new sense of purpose. On the way home I thought about the different ways words were used, out loud, throughout the worship program, which gave them a whole new dimension.
Given by the nationally recognized Dr. Forrest E. Harris, President of American Baptist College in Nashville, the preached word was a true auditory treat. Have you ever noticed that many of our great speakers have some connection with the ministry? I’m pretty sure it’s not a coincidence. Dr. Harris started off slowly but gradually built to a crescendo that had many of the congregants on their feet, shouting along with him. A few of the literary devices he used to make his sermon so compelling included imagery, repetition of key themes (Push the Pendulum!), pauses and change in tempo and volume, and metaphor. Though I may not remember all the details of the talk, I will retain the key points and, perhaps more importantly, the jubilation I felt.
The poetry selections “I Too” by Langston Hughes and “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou were read aloud by two young women. Though I’m familiar with both of these poems, you perceive them on a different level when they come through your ears rather than your eyes. This reminded me of the importance of taking the time to read your written work aloud before you hit “submit”. Trust me, you will immediately tune into words or phrases that just don’t sound right.
The Heritage Community Choir was amazing and the Chapel was the perfect space to allow their collective voices to soar. The beat of the music and the words of encouragement in the songs filled me with a sense of elation that I haven’t experienced in some time. “Lift Every Voice And Sing” was introduced by James A. Scandrick, Jr. with the reverence it deserves. Something I hadn’t realized was that James Weldon Johnson had originally penned it as a poem but liked it so much that he then set it to music, where it became known as the Black National Anthem. If you really listen to the words you are singing, you’ll realize how strong and evocative the prose it and how well the unusual melody meshes with it, giving the song a twist while keeping you slightly off-balance, similar to a story with a surprise ending!
I think what was most impactful about the service was how the various components of it, were not only strong on their own, but also fit seamlessly together to give you a much grander and more unforgettable experience. Given this, my afternoon at CRCDS was not only personally pleasurable, but I feel like I learned something as a writer as well.