Plenty Good Room: The Spirit and Truth of African American Catholic Worship is the title of the 1990 liturgical document promulgated by the Secretariat for the Liturgy and Secretariat for Black Catholics and by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The general concern of this document is the cultural adaptation of the liturgy, specifically as it applies to the African American Catholic Community. As a member of such a community (The Black Catholic Apostolate of the Albany Diocese), I have referred to this document from time to time to see how our community compares.
On Sunday, February 28, 2016, the Mass was in memory of my sister, Jeanine, who had passed away a year ago on that day. I was asked to participate in the Presentation of the Gifts, along with other members of the community. This video records that wonderful opportunity for me to honor my sister’s memory through joyful dance.
Referring back to Plenty Good Room, paragraph 103 describes Sacred Song as follows:
103. African Americans are heirs to the West African music aesthetic of the call-and-response structure, extensive melodic ornamentation (e.g., slides, slurs, bends, moans, shouts, wails and so forth), complex rhythmic structures, and the integration of song and dance. As a result, African American sacred song, as Thea Bowman noted, is:
holistic: challenging the full engagement of mind, imagination, memory, feeling, emotion, voice and body:
participatory: inviting the worshiping community to join in contemplation, in celebration, and in prayer;
real: celebrating the immediate concrete reality of the worshiping community—grief or separation, struggle or oppression, determination or joy—bringing that reality to prayer within the community of believers;
spirit-filled: energetic, engrossing, intense; and
life-giving: refreshing, encouraging, consoling, invigorating, sustaining.
I am happy to say that that description perfectly matches my experience during that liturgy. What a gift it was to me! Please feel free to join us at the Black Catholic Apostolate for Sunday liturgy any time and experience it for yourself!