I had the privilege of hearing and watching the McIntosh County Ringshouters perform last night at Second African Baptist Church and I swear, sometimes I wish I was Baptist.
Not that I could ever be anything but loud, proud Jew or abide that whole “no drinking-no dancing” rule. But I deeply desire some more clappin’ and shouting in my worship. A little hallelujah and Gah-bless. Some “Thank you, Lord!”s and a bunch of “mmm-hmm, say it again!”s. Praising our Creator ’til I’m moved to my feet – as opposed to an atonal reminder to the congregation that it’s time to rise.
Judging for the emails I got from last week’s post about wanting more for my money out of my synagogue dues, I’m not alone. I love the Jewish traditions – the way the prayers feel in my mouth, the concrete wisdom of the Hebrew script, the covenant between humanity and Divinity. Yet in practice—with many exceptions, of course—it has about as much spiritual juice as a prune. To quote my own poem, sometimes I just wanna kick back my chair and shout out “Glory Hallelujah!” to my fellow Jews who know all too well the dangers of drawing attentions to themselves…
Standing in a white clapboard church stomping with a multi-ethnic crowd (I promise, no one said a word about Jesus, which is where I draw the line for interfaith worship,) I felt full-up of Love with a capital “L” for God and people, the seams of whatever holds our souls inside our bodies bursting. I long for such an experience at shul. Those of you who have it — in Chicago, in Winston-Salem, NC, in Berkeley — clap out one for me, brothers and sisters.
Those of us that don’t have it yet, well, we’ve got to keep up the Kosher Gospel somehow. I recommend lobbying for a visit from Joshua Nelson to our communities to show the dried-up prunies how it’s done:
To learn more about how the McIntosh County Shouters have preserved their Gullah-Geechee traditions for hundreds of years, read Dana Clark Felty’s excellent article in the Savannah Morning News.