Saved and Sanctified: The Rise of a Storefront Church in Great Migration Philadelphia

Saved and Sanctified: The Rise of a Storefront Church in Great Migration Philadelphia

Saved and Sanctified: The Rise of a Storefront Church in Great Migration Philadelphia

Saved and Sanctified: The Rise of a Storefront Church in Great Migration Philadelphia

Synopsis

During the early twentieth century, millions of southern blacks moved north to escape the violent racism of the Jim Crow South and to find employment in urban centers. They transplanted not only themselves but also their culture; in the midst of this tumultuous demographic transition emerged a new social institution, the storefront sanctified church.
Saved and Sanctified focuses on one such Philadelphia church that was started above a horse stable, was founded by a woman born sixteen years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and is still active today. "The Church," as it is known to its members, offers a unique perspective on an under-studied aspect of African American religious institutions.
Through painstaking historical and ethnographic research, Deidre Helen Crumbley illuminates the crucial role these oftentimes controversial churches played in the spiritual life of the African American community during and after the Great Migration. She provides a new perspective on women and their leadership roles, examines the loose or nonexistent relationship these Pentecostal churches have with existing denominations, and dispels common prejudices about those who attend storefront churches. Skillfully interweaving personal vignettes from her own experience as a member, along with life stories of founding members, Crumbley provides new insights into the importance of grassroots religion and community-based houses of worship.

Excerpt

THERE ARE MANY WAYS OF BEING HUMAN; one is being Black in America. There are many ways of being religious; one is being a Christian. There are many ways of being Christian; one is being saved, sanctified, and full of the Holy Ghost. On one level, this book explores a universal human quest for truth and meaning through faith. On another level, it relates the particular narratives of a group of women and men who established their own faith community and lived by a unique formulation of Christianity configured within the cultural crucible of the African Diaspora in the United States. Because “The Church,” as the “saints” or members refer to their faith community, was started by a woman, and women have continued to share leadership with men, this book is about gender, religion, and power. Because The Church has survived the death of its founder, this book is also about institution-building. Because The Church was founded during the Great Migration, this book is about religious innovation during periods of rapid social change and inequitable cultural contact.

This book can be read in several ways. It begins by placing this faith community in the context of African American history and lived religion. Then it relates the life histories of founding members, explores the religious beliefs and practices of The Church, and delineates its organizational structure. Readers who wish to meet the founding saints and learn of their journey from south to north of the Mason-Dixon Line may start with chapter three, “Saints Tales,” which focuses on the experiences of founding members, both in Philadelphia and in the southern towns from which they migrated. For readers interested in religious practices and beliefs and their cultural and historical roots, chapter four is the best starting point; “Becoming Saints” offers thick ethnographic description of the congregation’s rituals and symbols and situates them within the context of African diasporic religion. Those wanting to understand the social-historical background of storefront Sanctified churches should start with the second chapter, “City . . .

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