Songs of the Faith
Imagine how it must have felt to be separated from your loved ones and taken far from your native land–against your will. Is it any wonder that African-Americans living as slaves in America embraced Christianity? It provided the promise of hope and freedom from bondage in the life to come.
Unlike free men, those living under the fist of slavery had no time for a convenient faith. It was to them a port in the storm, a life boat in the ocean, a vibrant part of everything they did. It had to be. One of the results of their passionate faith was a body of African spirituals–simple, poignant, and faith-filled–that remains with us today.
All that’s known of this beautiful, almost childlike melody is that it is of African-American Christian origin. Perhaps it was sung by weary, frighened voices on board slave ships or later as the slaves labored side by side in the fields. The song’s message of simple surrender to God’s loving care is certainly consistent with the slaves’ experience. And it is still capable–even these many years after the abolition of slavery–of rendering a tender, heartfelt emotion for those who raise its lovely strains to heaven.
As is the case with other African-American Christian folk songs, this one is meant to be sung by one or many singers and lends itself well to both unison and harmony.
Fact: Gene Shay, cofounder and host of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, said, “In the strictest sense, [folk music] is music that is rarely written for profit. It’s music that has endured and been passed down by oral tradition. . . .Also, what distingishes folk music is that it is participatory–you don’t have to be a great musician to be a folk singer. . . .And finally, it brings a sense of community. It’s the people’s music.
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. I Chronicles 16:34
God Is So Good — music provided, you provide the praise.
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