gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

pentecostal music: through the trope of suffering, immediacy and hope

much of the pentecostal/charismatic experience can be theologically read through their music. as the music has slowly evolved into and under a more generic umbrella of “contemporary worship” i want to suggest a retrieval of its initially intended form. in other words, stripping away the marketing and business aspect of the now contemporary genre, pentecostal worship in its purest form holds a unique insight into the Spirit’s presence in and among its worshippers.

as with many african-american slave songs and spirituals, we witness the very tension between suffering and hope. their longing for escape by means of the “chariot” expresses an immanent hope of their own freedom and possibility sung through a swinging rhythmic pulse of promise. when we think about pentecostal services in a larger context, the music could be read as a confrontation of the worshipper with the immediacy of god’s presence. some may say that the music is incessant, repetitive, loud and simple. granted, it may be. however, perhaps we can interpret the incessant beating of the drums, the repetitive choruses, the loud musical swells, the climactic phrases and the simple refrains and chord structures as the very confrontation of the holy spirit’s expressive and all consuming presence. it does not allow room for critical thought, for an excuse that “it’s too hard” or “i don’t understand.” the beats of the drum lure the worshipper to a rhythm that draws out the beat of one’s soul to clap, to tap, to rock back and forth, to dance, to jump, etc. in other words, the way in which the music is played could be equated to the image of the spirit’s immanent presence as engulfing ones being to the point of “otherness.” in fact, isn’t this exactly what happened to the disciples when the spirit came upon them? there was no rationalizing about what was going to take place, who was going to speak how, or when. rather, the spirit came and all in the room were caught up.

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One thought on “pentecostal music: through the trope of suffering, immediacy and hope

  1. You’ve got blog posts…I’ve got questions. 🙂

    1.) “we witness the very tension between suffering and hope. their longing for escape…expresses an immanent hope of their own freedom and possibility sung through a swinging rhythmic pulse of promise.”

    I’m curious about how in particular “immanent hope” functions is the worship context. Is the presence of God more tangible in pentecostal worship than other forms?

    I very much enjoy the possibility of thinking of pentecostal worship as an personal “confrontation” with a “immanent” message of “hope.” But, I don’t want to read something into your message that is not there.

    If I am understanding you correctly, this is a powerful re-reading of not only pentecostal worship, but the giving of the Holy Spirit and Tongues as a manifestation of the Holy Spirits power. In particular, I have never thought of the Pentecost as the arrival of an “immanent message of hope” so profound that the men and women present had to spread the good news.

    I also never noticed “Suddenly a SOUND like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Acts 2:2

    the imagery of the Shofar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shofar) maybe? I know that’s a stretch, but still maybe?

    solid post Gail. I’m glad you’re blogging 🙂
    -joejones
    ( http://www.iagreewithjoe.com )

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