Observing the links between Africa and New World worship

At https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32Y0EgnLznA you can see a good example of the sort of worship service typically called holiness. The video recalls to me many, many evenings and Sundays in Phoenix, AZ’s First Pentecostal Church. While this was back in the early sixties, the service remains similar to what I saw and heard back then. What has changed is the socioeconomic status of the congregation. Most of the congregation can trace its origins back to the founding members in the fifties, coming from East Texas and Oklahoma. After the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties and Affirmative Action programs of the seventies, people now live far from the ghetto but come back to the church (although you can find Holiness churches all over now. The continuity between the two pastors, father and son, may be one attraction).
The young man at 4:31 is showing out or putting on a bit but it is not fake, merely stylized, a performance. But the people like the lady in the yellow dress are truly possessed by the spirit, what they call shouting or getting happy. The lady in green also is filled with the Holy Ghost, another term. Robin Sylvan, author of Trace of the Spirit, believes rock and roll group scenes like concerts and raves, bring out this collective sense of worship and traces this back to the West African possession religions brought here by slaves. Given the origins of rock and roll in just such church music and the now ubiquitous presence of some form of rock and roll throughout the world, it is an entirely reasonable notion. I’ll have to finish the book to see what I think.
However, such worship spread from Blacks to Whites in the 18th and 19th centuries with the revivalist Great Awakening movements. The crowds of worshippers and converts were mixed, much to the chagrin of the slave holders, and both worship styles and music were passed back and forth. It is so interesting to me to see certain patterns adhered to, e.g. not crossing the feet in the holy dance. In viewing a few of these outbreaks of “shouting”, I saw only one person crossing her feet and I suspect she was just showing out. The one video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7WVXgyaHf8 shows over eleven minutes the development of the fervor in a small congregation. The “shouting” going on here is quite genuine.
We want to ask ourselves how much of this derives from West Africa and how much from elsewhere, including indigenous developments. One item is the way female worshippers dress in white. Another is the way uniformed – white blouse, black skirt – members assist in the church, including making sure those possessed by the spirit and dancing in the spirit do not hurt themselves. (I’ve seldom seen that happen – none I can remember, and shouting occurred in almost every service I attended, hundreds) Back to the dancing itself, I noted in one video very small children dancing in the spirit and even they did not cross their feet, leading me to believe the one person who did was a bit of an imposter. Sometimes a person feels forced to join the church and will try to fake possession. The way possessed members are attended to may be a relic of the way in, for example, vodou ceremonies, those possessed are taken to a room where the possessing deity is identified and appropriate dress and accoutrements are applied. As I’ve written elsewhere, something that attracted me to my wife was her ability to watch the candomble ceremony in the movie Black Orpheus and recognize the links between that service and the ones in the church she was raised in: women in white, moving in a circle to the beat of drums and tamborines, urging on spirit possession and serving members so struck by the spirit, and the talking in tongues (the old lady behind the protagonist in the ceremony speaking in the voice of Eurydice), etc. In those days of Blacks eschewing any connection to Africa, I found my wife’s ability to intellect out of that scene the essential elements of worship that connected Phoenix to Brazil to be a sign of real intellect.
I just got word my grandson bought us a camera to shoot videos for Youtube. He listens to us discuss things and thinks we might get some followers if we broadcast our discussions on Youtube. In the course of that, I am sure this topic will come up and, if we do do this and you see us, you are welcome to chime in with comments and questions.

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